Today, fishing and environmental groups filed a lawsuit in federal district court seeking to force the federal government to regulate toxic pesticides known to harm salmon and steelhead.
Toxic pesticides have been detected in each of the major salmon and steelhead rivers in the Pacific Northwest and California. Scientists have found that even at low levels, toxic pesticides harm salmon and steelhead by causing abnormal sexual development, impairing swimming ability, and reducing growth rates.
“The evidence of harm to salmon from pesticides is overwhelming. It is irresponsible for wildlife agencies to ignore that evidence and allow business as usual to continue while salmon and steelhead populations continue to slip toward extinction,” stated Aimee Code with the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, a co-plaintiff in the suit filed today.
Five years ago, a federal court ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service to develop permanent methods for protecting salmon and steelhead from 54 toxic pesticides found in west coast salmon streams.
Since then, EPA has submitted documents to NMFS regarding the effects of the pesticides on salmon and steelhead. But NMFS has failed to identify a single measure needed to protect salmon and steelhead from the pesticides or to complete any of the required consultations. The federal Endangered Species Act requires NMFS to complete such actions within 90 days. Today’s suit was filed against NMFS.
Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, a commercial fishing industry trade association that is also a co-plaintiff in the suit, commented, “NMFS needs to protect the salmon and steelhead legacy for future generations. Protecting salmon and steelhead from pesticides could bring back tens of thousands of fishing jobs and a billion dollar industry to our region.”
“This region has devoted far too much time and money to restore imperiled salmon runs to allow NMFS to sit on its hands while pesticides continue to contaminate streams and kill struggling salmon,” said Joshua Osborne-Klein, the Earthjustice attorney who represents the groups.
See a list of pesticide ingredients and their effect on salmon (PDF)