Pacific Salmon at Risk from Pesticides

Fishermen and public health groups push for protections


Aimee Code, Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, (541) 344-5044, ext. 27
Patti Goldman, Earthjustice, (206) 343-7340, ext. 32
Glen Spain, PCFFA, (541) 689-2000

The federal government continues to allow toxic pesticides to poison endangered and threatened salmon and steelhead without complying with its legal duties and federal court direction to protect these species from such poisonings. Despite the passage of almost five years since the first court ruling, the National Marine Fisheries Service has yet to identify a single measure needed to protect salmon and steelhead from toxic pesticides. Today, fishing and environmental groups asked NMFS to fulfill its responsibility to protect endangered Pacific salmon. 


Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, a commercial fishing industry trade association that was a co-plaintiff in the original action against EPA, commented: "It just makes no sense for the very federal agency charged with recovering west coast salmon to still allow poisons in our rivers known to kill them. Inaction is no longer an option, and threatens the whole west coast salmon fishing economy."

Toxic pesticides have been found in every Northwest river and stream tested.  Many rivers are contaminated with amounts of pesticides harmful to salmon and their survival.  Scientists have found that, even at low levels, pesticides can cause abnormal sexual development of salmon and impair their swimming ability, growth, development, behavior, and reproduction.

"The chemicals we use in our homes, gardens and on farms threaten our health and the health of our local fish and wildlife," said Aimee Code Water Quality Coordinator at the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides. "Still, it is not too late to reverse the negative effects of pesticide contamination. If we act now we can ensure the revitalization of fishing and recreation areas," she concluded.

"This region has devoted far too much time and money to restore imperiled salmon runs to allow pesticides to contaminate salmon streams and kill struggling salmon," said Patti Goldman, the Earthjustice attorney who represents the groups.

In its 2002 order, a U.S. District Court in Seattle found that the federal government had failed to protect 26 endangered and threatened species of salmon and steelhead from 54 toxic pesticides. The judge ordered EPA to consult with NMFS to identify permanent measures needed to protect the salmon and steelhead from the pesticides. The judge also imposed buffers and urban warnings as temporary measures to protect these species until the government completed the assessments. The government has yet to develop protective measures for any of the pesticides that harm the salmon and steelhead.

Read a letter sent today to D. Robert Lohn, northwest administrator of National Marine Fisheries Service, demanding action on this issue.

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