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article imageNeurotoxic pesticide approved for use on Washington oyster beds

By Karen Graham     May 2, 2015 in Environment
Seattle - Southwest Washington state oyster-growers have been battling the native shrimp that burrow in the mudflats for years, making it difficult for the oysters to grow. Now they have been given state approval for the use of a neurotoxic pesticide.
The permit for the use of the pesticide was given in April to the Willapa Grays Harbor Shellfish Growers Association, a group of two dozen shellfish growers. It comes with the provision that monitoring must be done to ensure there are no harmful effects.
The plan is to use Imidacloprid, a systemic insecticide in a class of chemicals called neonicotinoids which act on the central nervous systems of insects. The shellfish farmers plan to spray the pesticide on 2,000 acres of commercial shellfish beds in Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay. They say they want "to keep in check the threat" to the state's multi-million dollar shellfish industry.
The Washington State Department of Ecology noted the shellfish growers association also applied for a Sediment Impact Zone (SIZ) as the proposed discharge would likely impact sediment quality on sediments where the pesticide was to be applied. Ecology issued the permit on April 16, 2015 and it becomes effective May 16, 2015.
The manufacturers of Imidacloprid specifically state that the pesticide is not for use in water. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are against the use of the pesticide, saying it is premature and could be harmful to other species, especially those species that are a food source for threatened species.
In a comment made to the state Department of Ecology, NOAA said, the Ecology Department "is clearly aware that imidacloprid is a persistent broad spectrum pesticide that will kill nearly all benthic (sediment-dwelling) organisms on acreage directly treated."
The USFW also addressed the issue, saying research shows that the effects and damages caused by the use of the pesticide wouldn't be limited to the treatment sites.
The five-year permit calls for helicopter spraying of up to 2,000 acres a year. This means 10,000 acres in the two estuaries could potentially end up being sprayed.
The shellfish growers association issued a statement earlier in the week, saying: "Our oyster farmers' livelihoods depend on a healthy ecosystem in order to grow oysters, and we are confident the use of imidacloprid will only enhance and protect the oyster beds and is safe for the environment."
On Friday, the Seattle Times reported that Taylor Shellfish, Washington’s largest shellfish producer has decided to not treat its oyster beds with the controversial pesticide. “Our customers spoke loud and clear today, and that speaks volumes to us,” Bill Dewey, spokesman for Taylor Shellfish, said Friday. “It is disappointing — this really was the industry’s last hope.”
More about oyster beds, Pesticide, neurotoxic, Washington state, native shrimp
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