Daily News Archive
From July 26, 2002

Court Orders Government to Ensure Pesticide Use Will Not Harm Endangered Salmon

This week's photo story features Pacific Northwest salmon, recently awarded protection from pesticides by a court order under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The U.S. Federal District Court in Seattle found the EPA has a legal obligation under ESA to review the impacts of pesticide use and curtail uses that are harmful to salmon. This process begins with a consultation between EPA and the National Marine Fisheries Service, the expert U.S. salmon agency.

"The announcement represents a sweeping victory for both the people and the salmon in the Pacific Northwest," said Earthjustice attorney Patti Goldman, who represented environmental and commercial fishing organizations in the case. "EPA had flouted its legal obligation to stop harmful pesticide uses and the Court put an end to that disregard of the law."

Erika Schreder with Washington Toxics Coalition added that "Pesticides in rivers have been a time bomb for salmon for decades. This decision is a long-overdue first step to defusing that threat and making rivers safe for salmon."

The court decision, issued by Judge John Coughenour, called EPA's "wholesale non-compliance" with its Endangered Species Act obligations "patently unlawful."

Earthjustice represented the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Washington Toxics Coalition, and the commercial fishermen's organizations Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations and Institute for Fisheries Resources.

EPA's own documents find that current uses for several dozen pesticides are likely to result in surface water contamination levels that threaten fish or their habitat. Additionally, water monitoring by the US Geological Survey detected fourteen pesticides in salmon watersheds at concentrations at or above levels set to protect fish and other aquatic life. Combined, the EPA's findings and the US Geological Survey detections identified 55 pesticides that pose documented threats to salmon.

The Court found that "EPA's own reports document the potentially-significant risks posed by registered pesticides to threatened and endangered salmonids and their habitat" and that "it is undisputed that EPA has not initiated, let alone completed, consultation with respect to the relevant 55 pesticide active ingredients."

"It is refreshing that the judge ordered EPA to finally take action on the overwhelming evidence that pesticides harm salmon. The blatant disregard EPA has displayed on this issue for over a decade is inexcusable," stated Pollyanna Lind with the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides.