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Government Fails To Act on Ruling To Protect Endangered Salmon

(Beyond Pesticides, June 26, 2007) According to the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP), the federal government continues to allow toxic pesticides to poison endangered and threatened salmon and steelhead without complying with a federal court’s decision to protect these species from such poisonings. As a result, a 60-day notice of intent to sue has been issued to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), citing unreasonable delay.

Despite the passage of almost five years since the first court ruling, NMFS has yet to identify a single measure needed to protect salmon and steelhead from toxic pesticides. Now, fishing and environmental groups are again asking 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 NCAP. “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.

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.

“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.

For more information on this ongoing battle to protect endangered fish in the Pacific Northwest from pesticides, see Beyond Pesticides’ 2002 Daily News Coverage, the current 60-day notice of intent to sue, and the NCAP factsheet on pesticides and salmon.


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