By Takesha Thomas | Aug 1, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO –– A federal judge denied a Native American tribe's request to immediately protect two endangered species of sucker fish.

In a July 25 opinion, Judge William Orrick of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled the Klamath Tribes must pursue their claims in Oregon, where the tribe and the endangered fish are located. He denied a request for a preliminary injunction.

A shortnose sucker | Wikimedia Commons

"There is substantial disagreement whether the lake elevation level is causing injury to the sucker fish," Orrick wrote, "but there is no doubt that granting a mandatory injunction that cuts off water to the Klamath Irrigation District will cause substantial harm to others that depend on it, including wildlife refuges, farmers and ranchers."

The Klamath Tribes sought to protect two endangered species of sucker fish -- the C’waam (Lost River sucker, Deltistes luxatus) and Koptu (shortnose sucker, Chasmistes brevirostris) -- that are revered for their cultural, spiritual, and economic significance, according to court documents.

The tribes wanted the court to require the United States Bureau of Reclamation to keep the water level in the Upper Klamath Lake at "elevation levels" during this year's irrigation season. The level was earlier suggested in a biological opinion issued jointly by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

In May, the tribes filed a complaint against the bureau, FWS and NMFS alleging violations of the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act.

In the complaint, the tribe claims sucker fish harvests from 1968 to 1985 decreased from 100,000 fish per year to 687. The Klamath Tribes suspended fishing in 1986 and only take two per year for ceremonial purposes.

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National Marine Fisheries Service U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California US Fish and Wildlife Service

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