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Today's Top News
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Environmental Groups
Joshua Osborne-Klein, Earthjustice, (206) 343-7340 ext. 28
Glen Spain, PCFFA, (541) 521-8655
Aimee Code, NCAP, (541) 344-5044 ext. 27
Federal Government Finds Three More Pesticides Harm Salmon
Prescribes mitigation measures
SEATTLE - April 21 - Yesterday, the
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released a "biological
opinion" finding that three pesticides - carbaryl, carbofuran, and
methomyl - jeopardize the existence of protected salmon and steelhead.
The biological opinion
prescribes measures necessary to keep these pesticides out of salmon
waters in Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho. It is the second
such plan issued in the last six months under a court settlement with
fishermen and conservationists.
The new mitigation measures must be implemented within one year. They include:
- Prohibiting aerial applications of the three pesticides within 600 to 1,000 feet of salmon waters
- Prohibiting ground applications of the three pesticides within 50 to 600 feet of salmon waters
- Prohibiting applications of the three pesticides when wind speeds are greater than or equal to 10 mph
The three pesticides at issue in the biological opinion are known to contaminate rivers and streams throughout California and the Pacific Northwest and poison salmon and steelhead.
"The federal government has a duty to protect imperiled salmon from these deadly pesticides," said Joshua Osborne-Klein, an attorney for Earthjustice, the environmental law firm that represented the salmon advocates. "It's high time we reduce or eliminate the use of deadly pesticides in order to protect salmon, an icon of the Pacific Northwest's natural heritage."
Many of the mitigation measures required in the new biological opinion mirror those NMFS mandated in a previous biological opinion for three organophosphate pesticides. However, in that prior decision, as well as in a draft of yesterday's decision, NMFS required 20-foot non-crop vegetative buffers to be left along all waterways impacting salmon. NMFS deleted that requirement from the final decision.
"We're excited by the progress that this decision represents," said Aimee Code, the Water Quality Coordinator for the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP). "But we're concerned that NMFS backslid on an essential element needed to protect salmon. The science indicates that healthy vegetation next to rivers and streams filters out pollutants."
NMFS has now determined that current uses of all six of the pesticides it has reviewed so far are jeopardizing the existence of west coast salmon and steelhead. The Environmental Protection Agency - the federal agency charged with regulating pesticide use - had earlier determined that many salmon runs were not at risk from these six pesticides. NMFS's review found serious flaws with EPA's analytical methods and conclusions, and determined that EPA underestimated the risk that the pesticides pose to salmon. "Today's findings are an example of why it's so important for the fish and wildlife scientists at NMFS to provide an independent check on other agencies' findings about endangered species," said Earthjustice's Osborne-Klein.
But in the final days of the Bush administration, the federal government significantly weakened the protections provided by the consultation process between EPA and NMFS that produced today's decision. "The Bush administration's warped interpretation of the law removed the voices of scientific experts responsible for protecting salmon," continued Osborne-Klein. Those last-minute regulations are currently being reconsidered by the Obama administration.
Thirty-one more pesticides will undergo review by the National Marine Fisheries Service over the next three years. The next opinion, reviewing 12 pesticides, is due on June 30, 2010.
To read the biological opinion go to:
Fact Sheet for Carbaryl, Carbofuran, and Methomyl Biological Opinion
On April 20, 2009, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a "Biological Opinion" concluding that three dangerous carbamate pesticides commonly used in the Pacific Northwest and California are jeopardizing the survival of numerous species of salmon and steelhead. The decision requires EPA to implement the following measures to protect salmon and steelhead within one year:
- No-application buffer zones (ranging from 200 to 1,000 feet for carbaryl and carbofuran, and 50 to 600 feet for methomyl) from all salmon-bearing waters.
- Prohibition on application of all three pesticides when wind speed exceeds 10 mph, the soil is saturated with water, or a significant rain event is expected within 48 hours of application.
All three of the pesticides assessed in the Biological Opinion are neurotoxins. Exposure to these poisons either immediately kills salmon or impairs their feeding, predator avoidance, spawning, homing, and migration capabilities. Recent research has found that these pesticides can have "synergistic effects" on salmon, which means that exposure to mixtures of carbamates and other chemicals is even more dangerous than exposure to individual chemicals.
- Carbaryl is the second most frequently detected pesticide contaminating surface waters in the United States. EPA has classified carbaryl as moderately toxic to most fish and very highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates that serve as food sources for salmon and steelhead.
- Approximately 1.4 million pounds of carbaryl are used annually in the United States for agriculture. It is used to kill pests on a variety of in the Pacific Northwest and California, including fruit, nut, vegetable, and grain crops. It is also used in non-agricultural contexts such as oyster farming and lawn maintenance.
- Carbaryl is toxic to humans as well as wildlife. EPA has listed carbaryl as a likely carcinogen, and has determined that carbaryl poses significant health risks to farmworkers who prepare and apply in pesticide in the field and who harvest treated crops.
- Bayer CropScience is the primary manufacturer of carbaryl. The most common brand name for pesticides containing carbaryl is Sevin.
- Carbofuran is frequently detected in both surface water and ground water in the United States. EPA classifies carbofuran as highly toxic to freshwater fish and highly to very highly toxic to marine fish.
- Approximately 1 million pounds of carbofuran are used annually in the United States, primarily on corn, alfalfa, potatoes, pine seedlings, bananas (in Hawaii only), and spinach grown for seed.
- In January 2008, EPA indicated that it believed that the ecological, occupational, and human dietary risks from carbofuran were so significant that it proposed to prohibit all carbofuran uses. However, EPA has not completed the proposed cancellations and NMFS has determined that carbofuran uses will continue indefinitely.
- The primary manufacturer of carbofuran is FMC Corporation. Carbofuran is sold under various trade names including Furadan.
- Methomyl is considered to be moderately persistent and highly mobile in the environment. EPA has classified methomyl as moderately to highly toxic to fish, and highly toxic to very highly toxic to freshwater invertebrates that serve as food sources for salmon and steelhead.
- Approximately 2.5 to 3.5 million pounds of methomyl are used annually in the United States on a wide variety of crops including apples, barley, blueberries, corn, grapes, oranges, potatoes, tomatoes, and wheat. It is also used in bait products to control pests in non-agricultural settings such as restaurants and supermarkets.
- Methomyl is primarily manufactured by the DuPont Company. It is sold primarily under the trade name Lannate.
In 2002, the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Institute for Fishery Resources, and Washington Toxics Coalition with legal representation from Earthjustice, obtained a federal court order declaring that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to consult with NMFS on the impacts that certain pesticides have on west coast salmon and steelhead. Washington Toxics Coalition v. EPA, 413 F.3d 1024 (9th Cir. 2005). As a result of that lawsuit, EPA began consultations, but NMFS never issued biological opinions or identified the measures needed to protect salmon and steelhead from the pesticides. In 2007, some of the same salmon advocates filed a second lawsuit and entered into a settlement agreement with NMFS that establishes a schedule for issuing the required biological opinions. The biological opinion released today is the second of several decisions that will be released over the next three years that will assess a total of 37 pesticides.