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Daily News Archive
From May 10, 2001

Groups Uncover Government Documents Showing Pesticides Can Harm Endangered Salmon

On May 7, 2001, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund filed documents in Federal District Court that show the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that pesticides harm fish, specifically endangered salmon, but has failed to take required action. The documents, filed on behalf of the Washington Toxics Coalition, the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, and the Institute for Fisheries Resources, were presented as part of a motion for summary judgment in an Endangered Species Act lawsuit seeking protections for Northwest salmon from pesticides. The groups unearthed volumes of government documents showing current uses of 48 pesticides are likely to harm salmon.

The legal filings show that EPA has determined that current uses for 41 pesticides are likely to result in surface water contamination levels that threaten fish or their habitat. The groups also identified 13 pesticides that the US Geological Survey determined were present in watersheds used by salmon at concentrations at or above levels set to protect fish and other aquatic life. Because some pesticides are found on the lists of both agencies, a total of 48 pesticides have concerns that were identified by either EPA or USGS.

"In addition to EPA determining that these pesticides are a threat to fish or fish habitat, we know that they are commonly used in Pacific States and frequently detected in watersheds used by salmon," said Aimee Code, Right to Know Coordinator with the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides. "EPA's own analysis shows that pesticides not only hurt salmon directly but also threaten their food supply and other habitat needs," she added.

The fishing industry, already affected by dwindling salmon populations, is watching EPA's next move very carefully. "People who depend on fishing for a living have a right to expect the federal government to act when they find threats to salmon," said Glen Spain with the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "It's obvious that EPA needs to do more to ensure salmon are protected from harmful pesticide exposures," he added. "Toxic chemicals in our rivers are a real problem for salmon as well as human health, and we remain hopeful that the new EPA Administrator will direct the agency to take corrective action."

"EPA and USGS have already made findings that these pesticides can harm salmon, yet EPA fails entirely to comply with its duty under the Endangered Species Act to protect threatened and endangered runs of salmon from these pesticides," said Patti Goldman of Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund.

The groups sued EPA on January 30, 2001 for failure to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service concerning adverse impacts on listed salmon of pesticides that are registered for use by EPA.