Chapter 1: Procedures for Investigating a Fish Kill
Investigation of a fish kill can involve several state, provincial, and federal agencies and may require the expertise of professionals from several disciplines. Cooperation among these agencies and professionals is essential for the thorough investigation and successful prosecution of any case. One agency should have the lead responsibility for fish kill investigations. Other state, provincial, and federal agencies that investigate fish kills or water pollution should carefully define their legal authority and areas of expertise and be prepared to assist the lead agency within these limits. Because federal, state, and provincial responsibilities can overlap, a standard notification procedure should be adopted by all the agencies involved.
The responsibility for investigating a fish kill can rest with state, provincial, tribal, and/or federal governments, and frequently, responsibilities are shared. In the United States, for example, the Coast Guard shares responsibility with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state environmental agencies for investigation of spills of oil or designated hazardous substances into navigable waters. At the federal level, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) generally has jurisdiction if freshwater fish are killed, although this agency often delegates its authority to state government. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) may also have authority in the investigation if marine or anadromous fish are killed or if the incident occurs in federal offshore waters. Various state agencies may have important investigative roles (Table 1.1). For a summary of agency responsibilities, see Hill (1983); for natural resource damage assessment regulations established by the U.S. Department of Interior, including USFWS, and used by trustees of natural resources for spills of hazardous substances, see USOFR (1996); for damage assessment regulations established by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and used by trustees of natural resources for discharges of oil, see USOFR (1990). Cooperation among these agencies and professionals is essential for the thorough investigation and successful prosecution of any case.
The U.S. Endangered Species Act gives the USFWS and NMFS the authority to investi-gate fish kills if endangered or threatened fish are harmed or if the affected area is critical habitat for such species. For endangered as well as other species, the USFWS usually has responsibility for freshwater fish and NMFS for marine and anadromous fish. In Canada, the federal Minister of Fisheries has authority to investigate fish kills caused by pollution; however, in some provinces, this authority is shared with the provincial government. Sev-eral provinces also have legislation protecting rare and endangered species.