WASHINGTON (CN) – The National Marine Fisheries Service is reclassifying the Upper Columbia River steelhead distinct population segment as threatened rather than endangered after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the agency did not violate the Endangered Species Act in a 2006 review of its previous listing decision.
In 1997 the NMFS determined that the Upper Columbia River population segment was endangered. In 2005 the agency adopted a new policy on the Consideration of Hatchery-Origin Fish in Endangered Species Act Listing Determinations for Pacific Salmon and Steelhead, which allowed the inclusion of hatchery fish in the total population count. Then in 2006 the NMFS downgraded the population segment’s status to “threatened”.
Environmental groups filed suit, arguing that the agency did not place enough emphasis on self-sustaining steelhead populations. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington agreed with the environmentalists, and the NMFS bumped the steelhead back to endangered status. Then the agency appealed to the 9th Circuit, which agreed with the agency that hatchery fish should be included in determining the health of population segments.
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