Friends of Merrymeeting Bay Cybrary (Cyber-Library)
Lawsuit eyed on behalf of salmon
RICHMOND — The Friends of Merrymeeting Bay intends to join forces with two other organizations to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries for violating the Endangered Species Act by not listing Atlantic salmon as endangered on the Kennebec River.
The two other environmental groups joining in the official 60-day notice to the federal agencies are the Maine Toxic Action Coalition and the Center for Biological Diversity.
"Atlantic salmon are literally dying for attention," said Ed Friedman of FOMB.
The action stems from a two-and-a-half-year delay since FOMB and others filed a petition to list the population of Atlantic salmon in the Kennebec River as endangered. The petition was originally filed in May 2005. In November 2006, NOAA Fisheries issued a 90-day finding that supported the petition, yet no determination has yet been made. Failure to make such a determination within 12 months is a violation of the Endangered Species Act and is the reason the three groups have filed suit.
In the meantime, NOAA Fisheries completed a review of the Gulf of Maine Atlantic salmon population. The document echoes the concerns of the petitioners, according to Friedman.
"The review confirms our concerns that these once prolific fish are on the verge of extinction and they deserve protection on Maine's large rivers as well," Friedman said.
Friedman explained that protective actions went into effect years ago on smaller rivers but salmon on the larger rivers like the Kennebec, Androscoggin or Penobscot, were excluded from the ESA protection.
"Many think the salmon are protected throughout their range," Friedman said. "But they're not."
Kathleen McGee, of the Maine Toxic Action Coalition, said filing of the suit was done to save a species long heralded in Maine.
"State and federal resource agencies abdicated their responsibility to protect these magnificent animals when listing them only on a few small Maine rivers and ignoring them on rivers where they used to teem in numbers uncountable," she said. "Today, we can count on one hand how many salmon go up the Kennebec."
The federal agencies named in the official notice have 60 days to respond.