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US Biologists say 3 Pesticides Harm Salmon

by Phuong Le, Associated Press
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 21, 2009

SEATTLE -- Three pesticides used on agricultural crops jeopardize the survival of many Pacific salmon and steelhead listed as threatened or endangered in the West, federal biologists said Tuesday.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is recommending labeling restrictions, buffer zones near salmon waters for ground and aerial spraying, and a ban on the pesticides' use in windy conditions and during storms that wash them into the waters.

The pesticides - carbaryl, carbofuran and methomyl - can kill fish outright in certain concentrations and impair the ability of fish to smell, swim, avoid predators and grow.

But the biggest effect is the harm to aquatic insects that salmon rely on for food, said Angela Somma, who heads the service's endangered species division.

"These pesticides are designed to kill insects on agricultural crops," she said. "But when they get into the water system, they also kill aquatic insects that salmon feed on."

The fisheries service found that products containing the pesticides carbaryl and carbofuran jeopardize the survival of 22 listed Pacific salmon and steelhead species, including Puget Sound chinook and Snake River chinook.

Products containing methomyl put 18 listed species at risk, including upper Willamette River chinook and Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon.

The agency sent its findings to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which has a year to implement new guidelines. The restrictions would apply to pesticide use in Oregon, Idaho, California and Washington.

The findings are the result of lawsuits that anti-pesticide groups and salmon fishermen brought against the EPA and the fisheries service, starting in 2001.

"Overall, we think this is a huge step forward in ensuring that salmon and steelhead are protected from these poisons," said Joshua Osborne-Klein, an attorney with Earthjustice, the public interest law firm that brought the case. But "we don't think it goes quite far enough."

The fisheries service recommends spray buffer zones around salmon waters. They range from 600 to 1,000 feet for aerial spraying, and 50 to 600 feet for ground applications.

But the agency didn't call for 20-foot vegetative strips near streams, which help filter out the pesticides as they near the water.

"That's the only thing we have to catch the pollutants from moving into our waters," said Aimee Code, water quality coordinator with the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, a plaintiff in the case.

The fisheries services recommended the vegetative buffer in November when it issued findings on three other pesticides - malathion, diazinon and chlorpyrifos.

Somma said the three pesticides in Tuesday's findings tend to be shorter-lived, and the agency felt the other recommendations were sufficient.

The fisheries agency and EPA are reviewing a total of 37 pesticides under terms of the settlement of the lawsuits brought by the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Washington Toxics Coalition and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.

Heather Hansen, executive director of Washington Friends of Farms and Forests, said she was concerned the fisheries service would use one template to review the 37 pesticides. She also questioned the science and data being used.

"Every time you take a tool out of the toolbox, you make it more difficult to manage pests," Hansen said. "It's also important to have a variety of products so you don't get resistance."

Code praised the science, saying it took into account subtle effects of the pesticides on salmon, including looking at salmon's food source.

Carbaryl, known by the trade name Sevin, was first registered in 1959. The EPA estimates about 1.4 million pounds are used each year to control pests on fruit trees, vegetable crops, cut flowers, turf and in oyster beds. Carbaryl is also used by homeowners for lawn care.

The EPA is in the process of banning uses of carbofuran, which is sold under various trade names including Furadan. About 1 million pounds is used on corn, alfalfa and potatoes.

Methomyl, sold under the trade names including Lannate and Bug Master, is used on vegetable and orchard crops, livestock quarters and garbage containers.

Related Pages:
'Pesticide Cocktails' Make a Deadly Synergy for Salmon by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin, 3/6/9

Phuong Le, Associated Press
US Biologists say 3 Pesticides Harm Salmon
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 21, 2009

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