Kaitlin Lovell, TU Salmon Policy Coordinator: 503.827.5700 x13
Jim Myron, Conservation Director, Oregon Trout: 503.222.9091 x13
12/19/2001 -- PORTLAND, ORE. -- Following last week’s 9th Circuit Court decision to reinstate Endangered Species Act protection for Oregon coast coho salmon, pending a court appeal, a coalition of conservation groups today submitted a set of detailed biological arguments to the National Marine Fisheries Service to buttress the argument for keeping ESA protection exclusively for wild, naturally producing coho stocks.
In a September ruling the U.S. District Court had removed Oregon coast coho from the list. That decision by U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan ruled that wild stocks and hatchery stocks within the same geographic grouping could not be differentiated for ESA protection, effectively nullifying the Oregon coast coho listing. Hogan’s decision called into question 23 of 25 ESA listings of Pacific salmon and steelhead, and land use groups scrambled to file de-listing actions in its wake.
“Last week’s ruling brings the Oregon coast coho case back into the realm of legal reality,” said Kaitlin Lovell of Trout Unlimited in Portland. “Now it’s critical for us to put forth the biological evidence to make sure that ruling holds up and to reduce the risk to other protected stocks.”
Conservation and fishing groups had prepared a petition to list exclusively wild Oregon coastal coho stocks, detailing the biological, ecological, as well as legal reasoning for delineating protections between wild and hatchery fish. That petition was to be filed with NMFS this week. However, with last week’s appellate ruling, the need for an emergency ESA listing for wild fish only – which the petition would have sought – has passed, pending final ruling on the appeal. That final ruling could come within one year.
“Judge Hogan’s ruling falsely perpetuated the myth that biological differences between wild and hatchery coho do not exist, and that their behaviors and habitat needs are identical,” said Lovell. “Sound science explodes those myths, and that’s what this petition is based upon.”
Despite the appellate ruling, the groups deem it necessary to present their evidence before NMFS officials as they weigh the future of the Oregon coast coho and subsequent at-risk listings. The NMFS has indicated it will conduct a full review of the status of most listed Pacific salmon and steelhead as well as updating their hatchery policy.
“We’re confident the evidence in this petition would have been more than sufficient to warrant a wild coho listing,” said Jim Myron of Oregon Trout, one of the co-petitioners. “Fortunately, the Court of Appeals saw the holes in Judge Hogan’s ruling too, and the information we are submitting should provide the bricks and mortar to seal it up for good.”
For a copy of the petition to list wild Oregon coast coho, please call Alan Moore at Trout Unlimited: 503-827-5700 x. 10.
Mission: Founded in 1959 in Grayling, Michigan, Trout Unlimited is the nation’s leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization. TU’s 125,000 members in 500 chapters nationwide, including 8,500 members in the Pacific Northwest, are dedicated to the conservation, protection, and restoration of North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds.