SEATTLE (AP) -- New federal rules to protect salmon threatened with extinction on the West Coast go into effect Monday.
The new regulations, to be enforced by the National Marine Fisheries Service, prohibit acts that could kill or harm the fish.
"It's the teeth of salmon recovery," said Bill Sullivan, environmental director for the Puyallup Tribe of Indians in Washington state.
Puget Sound chinook and 13 other West Coast salmon and steelhead populations were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act nearly two years ago. The fish have suffered from development, logging, dams, overfishing and other habitat changes.
Already in place are rules that require any federal-related project that could harm threatened fish to be approved by the fisheries service.
The new rules expand that shield, making it illegal for individuals, businesses or local and state governments to kill or harm salmon or destroy important habitat.
Violators face fines up to $20,000. Criminal charges could also apply, although only "egregious actions" are expected to be targeted, said Rosemary Furfey, a natural resource management specialist with the fisheries service.
Lawsuits from both sides are pending. Builders challenge the rationale for the rules, while environmentalists say the regulations do too little to protect fish.
A major change under the new rules is that third parties -- anyone who believes salmon are being harmed -- can sue alleged violators. Businesses are concerned that will provoke lawsuits and increase costs.
"Our members are worried," said Tom McCabe of the Building Industry Association in Olympia. "It puts an indecisiveness in the marketplace."
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