This positive outcome was the result of a massive public response after articles appeared in Bloomberg News and the Seattle Times, whose article by Danny Westneat was the real initiator of the public reaction.
But the threat to these tidelands and adjacent public waters is not ended:
(1) Other oyster farmers have not agreed to ban imidaclorprid.
(2) The WA State Department of Ecology's approval to use this neurotoxin has NOT been rescinded.
(3) Oyster farmers are still planning to spread herbicides on the tidelands to kill eelgrass.
(4) The shellfish industry, including Taylor, is still polluting our waterways with PVC pipes and other plastics.
Perhaps most disturbing of all has been the role of the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE), the state agency that is supposed to protect our environment, not promote its decline for the sake of private interests.
It is startling, that for DECADES, the State and DOE has allowed the potent and carcinogenic pesticide carbaryl (SEVIN) to be sprayed on tideflats to aid the oyster growers. According to the National Pesticide Information Center:
- Carbaryl ranges from slightly to highly toxic to several species of fish
- Carbaryl ranges from moderately to very highly toxic to marine invertebrates, such as shrimp and oysters
- Carbaryl is very highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates such as shrimp and stoneflies.
- Carbaryl can also damage frog tadpoles during their development
- Carbaryl is very high in toxicity to honey bees and can harm beneficial insects
- Carbaryl is considered a human carcinogen.
Can you imagine that the State Department of Ecology EVER let this chemical be applied to Willapa Bay and Greys Harbor tidelands?
Or that DOE allowed the herbicide Imazamox to be sprayed over the same areas to kill eelgrass, which a Department of Ecology site says is critical habitat for birds, fish, and other animals.
Many of you who complained via email to DOE Director Maia Bellon got a response by Rich Doenges, Southwest Region Manager, Water Quality Program, in which he provides the DOE website on the issue. You will not believe what is in there.
They start by pushing the economic importance of the oyster business:
About 25 percent of our nation’s commercial oysters are produced from these two bays. The shrimp are more than a nuisance; they put the shellfish industry and economy at risk.
They then admit they allowed that the State allowed the insecticide carbaryl for over 50 years!
But then it gets surreal. DOE admits that the pesticide imidaclorprid by Bayer specifically said that it was not to be used in the water.
But EXACTLY, the same chemical, produced by an Australian firm, was OK to use on our tidelands.
The State of Ecology needs to ban spraying of pesticides and herbicides on tidelands adjacent to public waterways and all of us should keep the pressure on DOE Director Maia Bellon and her staff until they do so. Governor Inslee also needs to know of our concerns. Some oyster farmers use alternative (and more costly) methods for propagating oysters without spraying chemicals.
They should be commended and the rest of the industry should follow their lead. Washington State should pride itself on producing the best shellfish possible in clean, natural waters untainted by a chemical brew sprayed by factory aquaculture enterprises.
The Deeper Question
The coastal aquatic environment has been altered by daming the Columbia, logging, pollution running off land, bringing in invasive species, and more. Should we compensate for this damage to aid one industry by using other artificial, and perhaps risky, alterations (e.g., herbicides and pesticides)? Perhaps we need to step back and think this through. But the decision is a societal one, particularly since the tideflats are adjacent to PUBLIC lands, and clearly folks have spoken loudly.