Judge to rule on stopping salmon release

The Oregon City-based Native Fish Society filed suit against Oregon fishery officials and the National Marine Fisheries Service two years ago, contending releases from the Sandy Hatchery harms threatened salmon and steelhead.

On Wednesday it will ask U.S. District Judge Ancer Haggerty to stop the hatchery’s releases — scheduled to begin Saturday with 67,000 spring chinook smolts and 735,000 total fish this spring — until the lawsuit is fought in court.

While the debate whether hatchery and wild salmon and steelhead can co-exist has raged along riverbanks and in scientific journals, a broad legal challenge to a hatchery’s is rare and asking a judge to stop smolt releases is a first in Oregon.

Started in 1995, the Native Fish Society has a $390,000 yearly budget, a staff of six, 80 volunteers and membership of 700 advocating for the recovery of wild fish and their habitat. Two years ago it started a project examining the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s hatchery practices, first focusing on the Sandy Hatchery. A year later, it filed a suit challenging the hatchery’s operation.

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