Groups Sue EPA to Protect Salmon

By Cynthia Kirk

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Fishermen and two environmental groups in the northwestern United States are taking legal action against the Environmental Protection Agency. They say the agency has failed to protect salmon from the harmful effects of pesticides. Pesticides are chemicals used to kill insects. Pesticides used on crops can be washed into nearby waterways and harm fish.

A group representing salmon fishermen joined with two local environmental groups to bring the legal action. They are taking the action to force the E-P-A to protect salmon against small amounts of pesticides commonly found in rivers. New research shows that even small amounts of pesticides are making it harder for salmon to survive.

The groups say federal government research has found levels of pesticides in rivers high enough to cause problems affecting growth, development and reproduction in salmon.

Twenty-four kinds of salmon and steelhead trout fish are considered threatened or endangered. Most are in waters near the state of Washington.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is responsible for salmon recovery. The E-P-A is required by law to inform the Fisheries Service about the effects of pesticides on salmon. The legal action seeks to make sure that the E-P-A is working with the Fisheries Service. Environmental groups say the E-P-A currently makes only limited efforts to study the effects of pesticides on fish. They say the E-P-A rarely takes action when serious problems are found.

The E-P-A has been negotiating with the fishermen and the environmental groups. An E-P-A spokesman said negotiations failed to produce agreement on temporary measures to protect salmon against pesticides. But he says the E-P-A does inform the National Marine Fisheries Service about the agency's actions involving endangered salmon.

The legal action is the latest in a series of moves by environmental groups to save Pacific salmon populations. Earlier disputes have dealt with the effects of dams, tree cutting and fishing.

Experts say salmon fishing was once a valuable industry in the American northwest. However, the number of salmon has decreased. Fishermen's groups say their communities are suffering because of decreasing salmon populations.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.

Voice of America Special English