Fish and wildlife service sued
RICHMOND — Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, the Center for Biological Diversity and a Maine river activist filed suit Monday in U.S. District Court against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Division, charging the federal agencies failed to take action on a petition to protect the Atlantic salmon in the Kennebec River.
In 2000, the federal government protected salmon runs on several small rivers in Maine under the Endangered Species Act, but did not list salmon on larger rivers in the more heavily developed sections of the central coast and western Maine, a release from Friends of Merrymeeting Bay states. In May 2005, FOMB, the Maine Toxics Action coalition and Augusta resident Douglas Watts petitioned to list the Kennebec River salmon population as endangered. The suit alleges that the agencies failed to act, "despite an agency finding in 2006 that the petition presents substantial scientific information indicating protection may be warranted, and a subsequent scientific report supporting the concerns of the petitioners."
"The Kennebec River salmon are on the verge of extinction, yet the agencies continue to stall," FOMB chairman Ed Friedman wrote in a release. "The salmon runs on the Kennebec were once the stuff of legend, but today only a few fish make it up the river. Will the government simply wait until even these survivors have disappeared?" Watts agreed.
"A decision on listing is nearly three years overdue," Watts wrote. "The Gulf of Maine fishery is in deep trouble; further delay on a listing decision is biologically and legally inexcusable."
Watts said today that the federal government has 60 days to reply to the suit, but that "it's basically an open-and-shut case because the Endangered Species Act says they have to make a decision within 12 months of filling the petition."