Lawsuit seeks to protect West Coast fishermen

PORTLAND, Ore.– The Center for Biological Diversity and its allies today sued the US Fish and Wildlife Service for denying endangered species protection to West Coast fishers. Anglers are relatives of mink, otters, and wolverines and live in old-growth forests.

The Service had previously determined that fishermen warranted protection along the entire West Coast, but in 2020 it reversed course and only protected them in the southern Sierra Nevada.

Fur trapping took a toll on fishing populations, but was largely banned by the 1950s. Extensive logging of the majority of forests along the west coast prevented the animals from recovering . Today, climate change and the rodenticides used by marijuana growers put them at even greater risk.

“I am deeply concerned for the survival of the mysterious fisherman and the ancient forests he inhabits,” said Noah Greenwald, director of endangered species at the Center. “These tenacious animals can eat porcupines, but they can’t survive the damage we are causing to their forests. Fishermen needed the protection of the Endangered Species Act 20 years ago, and they need it even more today.

The Center and its allies first petitioned the Service to grant West Coast fishers endangered species protection in 2000, which led to a 2004 decision by the agency that the fisherman should be listed as threatened throughout its west coast range. Rather than provide this protection, the Service delayed, arguing that there was a lack of resources. The agency reaffirmed the fisherman’s jeopardy in annual reviews until 2016, when it abruptly reversed course and denied protection. After the groups successfully challenged the decision, it granted protections to fishermen in the southern Sierra Nevada, but nowhere else.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service has a legal obligation to list endangered species, but politics intervenes too often,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center. “For twenty years, the Service has used all the tricks to avoid registering the fisherman. Today we are in court because enough is enough.

Anglers once roamed the forests from British Columbia to southern California, but are now limited to two native populations in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains, plus another in northern California and the southwest. from Oregon. There are also small reintroduced populations in the central Sierra Nevada, Oregon’s South Cascades, and the Olympic Peninsula, Mount Rainier, and the North Cascades in Washington State. The northern California-southwestern Oregon population is the largest remaining, but is severely threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation caused by logging and high-intensity fires .

“Fishermen have it tough,” said George Sexton, conservation manager for KS Wild. “From rodenticide poisoning to habitat loss from logging and fires, these tenacious creatures face significant threats to their continued existence.”

The Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and Environmental Protection Information Center joined the center in the lawsuit.

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