EPA Announces Alternative Plan to Protect Salmon from Pesticides

For Immediate Release

Conservation Groups
Contact: 
Joshua Osborne-Klein, Earthjustice, (206) 343-7340 ext. 28
Glen Spain, PCFFA (541) 689-2000
Aimee Code, NW Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, (541) 344-5044, ext 27

EPA Announces Alternative Plan to Protect Salmon from Pesticides

SEATTLE, Wa. -
Today, the federal
Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to place additional
limitations on the use of three organophosphate pesticides —
chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion — to protect endangered and
threatened salmon and steelhead
in California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
 
The announcement comes in response to a series of lawsuits brought
by Earthjustice aimed at removing toxic pesticides from salmon spawning
streams throughout the northwest. 
 
In response to Earthjustice litigation, the National Marine
Fisheries Service (NMFS) in November of 2008 released a “biological
opinion” that set forth a plan for protecting Pacific salmon and
steelhead from three toxic organophosphate pesticides. That
decision came after almost a decade of legal wrangling between salmon
advocates led by Earthjustice and the federal government.  The
biological opinion prescribed measures necessary to keep these
pesticides out of water and to protect salmon populations in
Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho.  The announcement from EPA
today moves this work forward.
 
Although the experts at NMFS recommended prohibiting aerial
applications of the three pesticides within 1,000 feet of salmon waters
and ground applications within 500 feet of salmon waters, EPA has taken
a different course. EPA believes it can achieve
the same protections for salmon with buffers ranging from 100 to 1,000
feet depending on pesticide application rate and stream size. In their
announcement today, EPA says it will require industry to fund and carry
out monitoring of salmon streams in order to
assure the pesticide restrictions work as intended.
 
“EPA’s decision is a major step toward protecting our salmon
stocks and revitalizing the fishing industry, which can generate
hundreds of millions of dollars in the region,” said Joshua
Osborne-Klein, an attorney for Earthjustice, the environmental law
firm that represented the salmon advocates. “But we’re concerned that
EPA’s alternative won’t be enough to keep these poisons out of salmon
waters, and we urge the wildlife experts at NMFS to closely review
EPA’s plan.”
 
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 (see background below).
 
“Our goal is to rebuild the healthy salmon stocks native to the
Pacific Northwest,” said Osborne-Klein, of Earthjustice. “Getting
agricultural poisons out of salmon spawning streams is one of many
needed actions to see the salmon stocks rebuilt.”
 
In addition to jeopardizing salmon, these pesticides pose serious
risks to public health – especially the health of young children.  A
number of recent studies have linked prenatal exposure to
organophosphate insecticides with behavioral problems including
attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.  A 2006 study published in
Pediatrics, compared the risks of chlorpyrifos to prenatal cocaine
exposure.
 
 
LEGAL BACKGROUND
 
In 2002, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations
(PCFFA), the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, and
other salmon advocates, 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 salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest and California. 
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,
the salmon advocates filed a second lawsuit and entered into a
settlement agreement with NMFS that establishes a schedule
for issuing the required biological opinions. 
 
SCIENTIFIC BACKGROUND
 
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) determined that
accepted uses of chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion are likely to
jeopardize the continued existence of 27 species of endangered or
threatened salmon and steelhead. NMFS found that current
uses were likely reducing the number of salmon returning to spawn. 
These three pesticides are all organophosphates (a class of neurotoxic
chemicals). They are used in both agricultural and/or urban
insect control. Recent research has found that in combination
the effect of organophosphate mixtures is greater than the effect of
each of the chemicals’ effects when added together. These chemicals are
often found together.   
 
Chlorpyrifos
•       Contaminates rivers throughout the west at levels harmful
to fish or their food sources according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The basins where chlorpyrifos was detected at harmful levels include
the Willamette, San Joaquin, Tulare, and the Central
Columbia Basin.
•       Is “very highly toxic” to fish according to U.S. EPA’s toxicity classification system.
•       Impairs fish reproduction by reducing egg production in fish.
•       Inhibits juvenile coho salmon feeding behavior and swimming speed.
•       Harms the survival and reproduction of salmon food sources.
 
 
Diazinon
•       Contaminates rivers throughout the west at levels harmful
to fish or their food sources according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The basins where diazinon was detected at harmful levels include the
Willamette, San Joaquin, Tulare, the Central Columbia
Basin and Puget Sound. It was also detected in King County, Washington
streams.
•       Impairs feeding, predator avoidance, spawning, homing and migration capabilities by impeding salmon sense of smell.
•       Leads to weakened swimming activity in juvenile trout.
•       Is acutely toxic to salmon food sources.
 
Malathion
•       Contaminates rivers throughout the west at levels harmful
to fish or their food sources according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The basins where malathion was detected at harmful levels include the
Willamette, San Joaquin, Tulare, and the Central
Columbia Basin. It was also detected in King County, Washington streams.
•       Leads to weakened swimming activity in juvenile trout.

 

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