Federal Court restores sound science to salmon issues

September 14, 2001

Oregonians in Action News Release

Tigard, Oregon. . On Sept. 10th, 2001, U. S. District Judge Michael Hogan set aside the listing of coastal coho salmon as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The judge held that the failure to count all coho was arbitrary and capricious, and unlawful, based on his determination that hatchery fish are the same as "wild" fish and should have been counted.

"It’s a great decision which not only strikes down the flawed listing of coastal coho by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), it will pressure NMFS to apply sound science and delist many other salmon species in the northwest -- listings that also did not take hatchery fish into account," said Bill Moshofsky from Oregonians In Action, a founding member of the broad-based Save the Salmon Coalition. "We greatly appreciate the efforts of the Alsea Valley Alliance, the plaintiffs in the case, and the Pacific Legal Foundation, whose attorneys represented them."

The Coalition has been actively challenging the anti-hatchery phobia in state and federal salmon policies and programs, as well as their failure to consider or deal with ocean conditions and predators, which are the major factors impacting salmon populations. They have been focussing almost entirely on restricting land uses in watersheds in both rural and urban areas which are much less significant than ocean conditions and predators.

Here are significant excerpts from Judge Hogan’s opinion:

". . it is undisputed that ‘hatchery spawned’ coho and ‘naturally spawned’ coho within the Oregon Coast ESU share the same rivers, habitat and seasonal runs."

" It is undisputed that ‘hatchery spawned’ coho may account for as much as 87% of the naturally spawned coho in the Oregon Coast ESU."

" In addition, hatchery spawned and natural coho are the same species . . . and interbreed when mature."

"Finally, the NMFS considers progeny of hatchery fish that are bred in the wild as ‘naturally spawned’ coho that deserve listing protection."

". . Thus, the NMFS listing decision creates the unusual circumstance of two genetically identical coho salmon swimming side-by-side in the same stream, but only one receives ESA protection while the other does not. The distinction is arbitrary."

The court’s decision is especially timely and appropriate in light of the current huge, record runs of returning coho, chinook, and steelhead (hatchery and wild) -- over 3 million in the Columbia River alone. "It is now ludicrous for anyone -- especially Governor Kitzhaber and state and federal agencies -- to impede salmon recovery efforts with anti-hatchery biases. It’s time for everyone to focus on the major issues, predators and ocean conditions, along with sensible hatchery programs, to optimize all salmon populations," Moshofsky stated.

Oregonians In Action is a statewide, nonprofit property rights organization, working for balance and realism in land use regulations.

For more information

Please contact Bill Moshofsky at Oregonians In Action

PO Box 230637 Tigard OR 97281 (503) 620-0258


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