Lawsuit Challenges Agency's List of Salmon Called Endangered

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Byline: Susan Palmer The Register-Guard

Several business and industry groups on Tuesday sued federal fisheries managers for failing to include hatchery salmon when considering endangered-species status for the fish.

The lawsuit - filed in Eugene federal court by the Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of property owners, farmers and business groups in Oregon, Washington, California and Idaho - alleges that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's fisheries division broke the law by failing to follow the Endangered Species Act, which requires the agency to treat all fish the same. The suit says that hatchery salmon are genetically indistinct from naturally spawning fish.

The Pacific Legal Foundation filed a similar suit in 2001 in regard to coastal coho. In that case, U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan sided with the Pacific Legal Foundation. His decision was affirmed by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004.

In Monday's suit, the Pacific Legal Foundation argues that the NOAA Fisheries most recent relisting of 16 endangered salmon fails to comply with the Hogan ruling.

Instead the agency has counted only wild populations when considering whether a fish should be listed, nominally including hatchery fish in the endangered listing but then exempting them from protection. …