A listing and a delay

  Faced with a court-imposed deadline, the National Marine Fisheries Service listed only one West Coast coho salmon population as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act.

The agency announced Oct. 25 that coho along coastal Central California deserved threatened status under the law, but two populations in Northern California and Oregon will be studied for another six months because of "substantial disagreement" over the status of the fish.

Fishing groups and environmentalists say the disagreement stems from politics rather than science. The agency has considered listing coho stocks since 1993, and long-term trends show the fish have declined dramatically from the central California coast to the Canadian border (HCN, 10/15/93).

But in the months preceding the decision, both California Gov. Pete Wilson, R, and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, D, urged the Fisheries Service to delay the listing, claiming the states could recover the fish without the Endangered Species Act. Kitzhaber's plan would rely on the voluntary efforts of logging companies, ranchers and other landowners to improve the hundreds of streams and rivers that the fish inhabit.

Fish advocates say voluntary plans won't be tough enough. "Unfortunately, the Endangered Species Act is the only way to compel federal and state agencies and private landowners to take action," said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.

*Jim Hight

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