The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

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


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

"Salmon runs all along the west coast are collapsing, and our
rivers becoming a toxic soup of pesticides is surely one of the
causes," said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's
Associations (PCFFA). "This new NMFS decision will help
keep pesticides out of salmon-bearing streams and is a step toward
protecting these economically valuable salmon runs and the tens of
thousands of jobs they support. It just makes sense for EPA to stop
allowing pesticides to pollute salmon-bearing rivers,
especially when so many other agencies are spending hundreds of
millions of taxpayer dollars to try to save these endangered salmon

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

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

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.

The Biological Opinion can be downloaded at:

Technical Background

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


  • 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

  • Methomyl is primarily manufactured by the DuPont Company. It is sold primarily under the trade name Lannate.

Legal Background

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,
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.