Monday, January 14, 2019

An Important New Book Describes How the WA Shellfish Industry is Poisoning our Shoreline Environment

In 1962, Rachel Carson wrote a book, Silent Spring, that documented the profound harm of the pesticide DDT on the natural world.  This book led to the of banning of DDT and energized the U.S. environment movement.

During the past week, an important new book has been published, one that may well join the ranks of Silent Spring.  The book, Toxic Pearl,  describes the poisoning of Washington State's shorelines by a politically connected and highly irresponsible shellfish industry.  Toxic Pearl documents the spraying of herbicides and pesticides over State shorelines from Puget Sound to Willapa Bay, the careless spread of plastic pollution, and the physical destruction of shorelines areas by a shellfish industry more concerned with profit than the environment.

The book also describes the shameless cooperation of state officials from the Department of Ecology and Natural Resources to the Governor's office with the shellfish industry, and even the participation of the State's educational institutions like WSU and the UW.

Toxic Pearl reviews the tragic history of the spraying of pesticides and herbicides over Washington State shorelines during the past half century by a shellfish industry that has moved industrial-scale "farming" of non-native shellfish species to our coastal and Puget Sound waters.

For decades, this industry, sprayed the pesticide Carbaryl, a powerful neurotoxin (also known as Sevin) around Willapa Bay and other local shore areas to kill a Washington State native animal, the burrowing shrimp.  Burrowing shrimp are an important food source for many native species including fish, birds, and crabs.  Why does the shellfish industry want to kill the native shrimp?  Because they aerate and mix the mudflats, making it more difficult for the shellfish industry to cheaply plant their non-native shellfish seed  (clams and oysters) into the mud.

The shellfish industry is also spraying herbicides such as imazamox  over the coastal zone to kill the shore grasses to make it easier for the industrial clam and oyster operations.  Such grasses are important source of food for wildlife and provide habitat for a wide variety of species.  More recently, the shellfish industry is pushing to spray ANOTHER neurotoxin (Imidacloprid) over our coastal waters.   And, chasing the high-value Chinese market for geoducks, the industry is putting in miles of cut-off plastic tubes with plastic netting over mudflats around the region, resulting in the dispersal of plastic pollution throughout our coastal environment (see picture below).

Toxic Pearl tells the story of this extraordinary undermining of our coastal environment by the shellfish industry, documents sickness and illness following the spraying, and reviews the association of spraying with a large increase of miscarriages among the Shoalwater Bay Tribe.  It asks many important questions, such as the health effects of the herbicides/pesticides for those who eat our shellfish and those who live near the shellfish operations.

Toxic Pearl is also a political story that describes the influence of a rich, favored local industry that has strong connections with Washington State government and the Governor.  The WA State Departments of Ecology and Natural Resources have supported the use of pesticides to kill the native burrowing shrimp, and Governor Inslee has taken advantage of the shellfish industry's baseless claim of ocean acidification as the cause of problems in their factory oyster seed farms (see my blogs on this here and here) to support his advocacy efforts.

 In 2015, Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times wrote an important article outlining the herbicide/pesticide spraying by the WA shellfish industry, but the clam/oyster folks are still spraying herbicides and pushing to spray Imidacloprid.
Toxic Pearl is a book that should be read by every Washingtonian who is interested in the environment and their own health.  And one, like Silent Spring, that hopefully will lead to real action and change.  Our coastal waters and Puget Sound are not private farmlands, but the shared inheritance of all.  Herbicides and pesticides should NEVER be used in these places.

Where can you get more information about the book and order it?

The author, M. Perle, has set up a website with orders and additional information:

You can order the book online or in person from Orca Books in Olympia.

Or secure a kindle version from Amazon (only $5.99)
Books are also available from Powells Book in Portland, Eagle Harbor Books in Winslow (Bainbridge Island), BookTree in Kirkland, the BookShop in Edmonds, Kings Books in Tacoma, Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo, and many more locations)

Saturday, January 12, 2019

A Wonderful Mid-Winter Break: Sunny and Dry for Days

After a period of relentless rain and wind, much of the Northwest will experience a wonderful break, with several days of dry conditions, sunny skies, and light winds.   And to add to the experience, sunset is now perceptibly later.

This morning's sunrise says it all.

But if you really want to be optimistic, here is the forecast accumulated precipitation through 4 PM Tuesday from the UW WRF modeling system.  Washington and Oregon are dry, in contrast to a sodden California.

But can you trust this forecast?   Let's check the NWS/NOAA GEFS ensemble system (running the model many times to explore uncertainty) for Seattle accumulated precipitation (see below).  Yes....all the members of the ensemble are dry through 4 PM on Tuesday.  You can take this forecast to the bank.

What about sun?   Expect a lot of it.  Here is the cloud forecast for Sunday at 1 PM.  Cloud-free conditions are predicted.

Why will the northwest have such a nice break?  Because of major ridging (building of high pressure) over the western U.S. with the jet stream (and associated storms) heading into California.  Let me show you with a series of upper-level (500 hPa pressure, about 18,000 ft above sea level) charts to illustrate. 

7 AM today.  A ridge centered to the east of us, with a trough offshore that could bring a sprinkle to the coast, but not much more.

 4 PM Sunday.   Wow.. huge ridge builds over our region.

 Monday at 4 PM...still there.

And at 10 AM Tuesday, the ridge is starting to pull back, but still enough to keep us dry and sunny.

You might notice that a lot of action is going into California.  While we are dry, they are going to get pummeled with heavy rain and wind. 

Take a look at the 7 day forecast precipitation totals for southern CA from the European Center model.  Some amazing totals (as much as 10 inches in the mountains there).  There won't be much drought talk when this is over.

This situation is classic El Nino, with the jet stream heading into southern CA.   So if you were planning a trip to LA to dry out...cancel it.  Stay here for sun and dry conditions. 

A break like this in mid-winter is a godsend for those bothered by darkness and clouds.  And keep in mind that our meteorological spring is only 5 weeks away.