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PLF Takes Chinook Salmon Fishing Case to Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Eugene,OR; October 04, 2005: Pacific Legal Foundation has asked the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to rein in the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) heavy-handed regulation of commercial trolling chinook salmon fishing that threatens to decimate fishing communities from Portland to San Francisco.

“We have coastal fishing communities that are in real jeopardy because of the short 2005 season,” said , managing attorney for Pacific Legal Foundation’s Northwest Center. “Many fishermen are barely making ends meet.”

“We’re taking this case to the Ninth Circuit to make sure the federal government doesn’t needlessly wreak economic devastation again next season or many of these communities won’t survive,” Brooks said. “We could lose a whole way of life, not to mention an industry that’s important to the United States economy and the American people.”

In June, PLF sued NMFS on behalf of several Oregon fishermen’s associations, and workers and families dependent on the fishing industry, arguing that the agency’s decision to slash the 2005 commercial trolling chinook salmon fishing season by more than half violated federal law. PLF argues that the agency’s decision to cut the season short to protect salmon returning to the Klamath River illegally ignored record numbers of returning salmon in other rivers, as well as the prolific number of hatchery salmon.

PLF says that federal law does not allow NMFS to treat hatchery and naturally spawned salmon differently or to issue harvest regulations based solely on naturally spawned salmon numbers.

PLF also charges NMFS with failing to consider the economic impacts of its regulation on fishermen and small businesses dependent on the commercial chinook salmon fishery, as required by federal law. Congress—concerned that conservation measures were threatening the survival of fishing communities—mandated under the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Act and the Regulatory Flexibility Act that NMFS examine the potential economic impacts of regulations on fishing communities and identify alternatives that minimize those effects.

The economic harm goes well beyond fishermen, and also affects fishing vessel deckhands, fish plant workers, stores that sell gear and ice to fishermen, and seafood processors and market owners, as well as local restaurant owners and restaurant workers that depend on the industry.

“Federal agencies should not be in the business of bankrupting local economies and displacing thousands of workers and their families to protect fish,” Brooks said. “But it is an especially bitter pill to swallow when there were record numbers of salmon this year.”

The appeal comes following an unfavorable decision from the United States District Court in Eugene, Oregon, in which the magistrate judge ruled the federal government did not need to consider the hatchery fish nor the considerable local economic affects of the chinook fishing season when issuing its severely restrictive regulations.

The case is Oregon Trollers Association v. National Marine Fisheries Service



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