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Dawn Collier, Media Director, Pacific Legal Foundation


EUGENE, OR; January 17, 2006: NOAA Fisheries announced today that it will not "relist" the Oregon Coast coho as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and that the species does not warrant protection under the Act. The decision comes as the final response to Pacific Legal Foundation’s 2001 landmark court victory in Alsea Valley Alliance v. Evans, where a federal court ruled that NOAA had illegally ignored the prolific numbers of hatchery fish when it listed the coho in 1998.

"NOAA’s announcement vindicates what we’ve said all along: If the government counts all the fish, an ESA listing is not warranted," said Russ Brooks, the managing attorney for PLF’s Pacific Northwest office who successfully litigated the Alsea Valley Alliance case. "We are pleased to see that NOAA’s increased emphasis on the role of states in managing species within their borders has finally resulted in a common sense ESA decision. But it’s unfortunate that it took a lawsuit to make it happen."

"Sadly, it took NOAA almost 7 years from the time we brought the lawsuit to arrive at this decision, and over 4 years to comply with a federal court ruling," added Brooks. "In the meantime, Oregonians have needlessly had their livelihoods damaged by regulations to protect fish that never were endangered in the first place."

The Alsea ruling effectively delisted the Oregon coast coho, but for the last four years, NOAA has resisted making it official. Instead, the agency proposed to develop a new policy on hatchery fish to apply to all listed salmon and steelhead on the west coast. In June, 2004, NOAA issued its draft hatchery policy and proposed to once again list the Oregon coast coho as "threatened." PLF immediately challenged both actions as violating the ESA and the court’s ruling in Alsea.

"Despite today’s announcement, NOAA is still playing games with 16 other salmon listings and 10 steelhead listings on the west coast," said Brooks. "They simply can’t continue to pretend hatchery fish don’t exist or they’ll have to answer for it in court."

Last month, PLF filed a sweeping lawsuit challenging those 16 salmon listings spanning four western states, charging NOAA with continuing to illegally distinguish between hatchery and naturally spawned fish in violation of the ESA and Alsea.

About Pacific Legal Foundation

Founded in 1973, Pacific Legal Foundation is a nonprofit, public interest legal organization dedicated to defending individual and private property rights. PLF is a national leader in the effort to reform the Endangered Species Act and raise awareness of the act’s impact on people. PLF’s Pacific Northwest Center is located in Bellevue, Washington. More information on PLF can be found at www.pacificlegal.org.

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