[env-trinity] Eureka Reporter- Ninth Circuit court upholds restriction of salmon season

Tom Stokely tstokely at trinityalps.net
Mon Jul 10 10:47:49 PDT 2006

            Ninth Circuit court upholds restriction of salmon season 
            by Nathan Rushton, 7/7/2006 
            It was more bad news Thursday for the fishermen seeking a legal remedy to this summer’s drastically restricted salmon season, which has threatened the financial livelihood of West Coast fishermen and kept many boats docked.

            Despite the fishermen’s challenge, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the federal government’s action to restrict salmon fishing off a 700-mile stretch of Oregon and California coast because of low projected returns of salmon that will spawn naturally in the Klamath River.

            After numerous public hearings in the spring, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council recommended in April that the salmon season be significantly reduced because fewer than 25,000 chinook salmon were expected to return to the Klamath River — 10,000 below the baseline number that triggers stricter management.

            The suit against Department of Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and National Marine Fisheries Service directors objected to the 1989 regulation establishing the 35,000 natural spawner escapement number for the Klamath River on which the 2005 action was based, according to the court documents.

            The plaintiffs’ primary claim was that the Magnuson-Stevens Act forbids the NMFS to distinguish between natural and hatchery spawners for the purposes of making decisions on Klamath chinook management and conservation.

            In its opinion published Thursday, the court rejected the legal challenge brought by the 15 coastal fishermen and fishing business owner plaintiffs, which include the Oregon Trollers Association, the Suislaw Fishermen’s Association, as well as McKinleyville’s Cap’n Zach’s Crab House, which is now closed in the wake of a dismally delayed crab season.

            The Hoopa Valley and Yurok tribes, whose reservations rely on salmon caught from the Klamath River and its tributaries for food, intervened in support of the NMFS decision.

            Russ Brooks, managing attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation who represented the fishermen, said in a news release following the ruling Thursday that the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Act requires federal regulators to manage all members of a species the same way.

            “Hatchery chinook are not only biologically identical to those that will spawn naturally, but many hatchery chinook do return to spawn naturally,” Brooks said.

            Indicating that the Marine Fisheries Service was wrong not to count all hatchery chinook as part of the returning chinook population, Brooks said the agency is “deliberately lowballing” the number of salmon that will return to the river.

            “If all hatchery chinook were counted as part of the population, the service would realize there is no need to drastically reduce salmon fishing,” Brooks said.

            Indicating that the court did not recognize the legal requirement that regulators must count all chinook, Brooks stated in the news release that the decision is ripe for an appeal before the full Ninth Circuit court and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court. 

      Copyright (C) 2005, The Eureka Reporter. All rights reserved.  
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