lawsuits take issue with Canadian salmon fishing

Two new lawsuits take issue with Canadian salmon fishing

SEATTLE — Canadian fishing is severely cutting into salmon recovery efforts in the Pacific Northwest, according to two new federal lawsuits.

One lawsuit seeks to bar the import from Canada of any salmon protected by the Endangered Species Act, while the other would force the U.S. government to reconsider a biological opinion it wrote supporting the 1999 Pacific Salmon Treaty with Canada.

Both lawsuits were filed Monday in U.S. District Court by the Salmon Spawning and Recovery Alliance, a collection of environmental and recreational groups from Washington and Oregon, as well as the Snohomish County Public Utility District. The lawsuits name the Commerce Department, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the State Department and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Interior Department and the Fish and Wildlife Service as defendants.

The lawsuits say that chinook salmon from Puget Sound rivers migrate north to Canadian and Alaska waters, then return to spawn in their native rivers. About 88 percent of the chinook salmon caught in the commercial troll fishery off the west coast of Canada’s Vancouver Island are of U.S. origin, the lawsuits said, citing data from the Pacific Salmon Commission, which implements the salmon treaty.

Many of those fish are exported to the United States – despite Endangered Species Act rules forbidding the import or export of protected species, including certain salmon populations, the lawsuits said.

The filings also take issue with the biological opinion supporting the Pacific Salmon Treaty. The opinion, issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service, said the treaty was favorable because it would reduce the salmon take in the region by about 30 percent.

The fisheries service never considered whether the take needed to be reduced by more than that, said Eric Redman, a Seattle lawyer representing the group.

Brian Gorman, a spokesman for the fisheries service, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Michael Milne, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment

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