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Sunday, December 10, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Poison Salmon? Sure, EPA Tells Agribusiness

SEATTLE (CN) - The Environmental Protection Agency is letting agribusiness poison 27 species of salmon by using six pesticides in violation of environmental laws, four environmental groups claim in Federal Court. The groups say this is the fourth time they have had to sue in this court to force the EPA to obey the law and court orders.

The pesticides at issue include malathion, diazinon and other organophosphates that "jeopardize the continued existence of 27 species of Pacific salmon and steelhead and would destroy or adversely modify the critical habitat for 25 of those species," the complaint states, citing the first of several biological opinions from the National Marine Fisheries Service, issued Nov. 18, 2008. That biological opinion (BiOp) from the NMFS gave the EPA 1 year "to establish specific protections that would avoid jeopardy and adverse modification of critical habitat."

The NMFS issued a second biological opinion on April 20, 2009, regarding three carbamate pesticides - carbaryl, carbofuran and methomyl. "NMFS concluded that

EPA's registration of pesticide products containing carbaryl and carbofuran jeopardize 22 listed Pacific salmonids and likely destroy or adversely modify the habitat of at least 20 listed Pacific salmonids. NMFS also found that methomyl registrations jeopardize 18 listed Pacific salmonids and likely destroy or adversely modify the habitat of at least 16 listed Pacific salmonids. Like the OP [first] BiOp, the Carbamate BiOp articulated a comprehensive RPA with specific protections to avoid likely jeopardy and adverse modification of critical habitat, and provided that the RPA must be implemented in its entirety within one year to avoid jeopardy."

But the EPA hasn't done any of this, the plaintiffs say: "To date, EPA has not implemented a single one of the requirements of NMFS's RPAs [Reasonable and Prudent Alternative] or RPMs [Reasonable and Prudent Measures] for these six pesticides, nor has EPA taken steps to implement any alternative protective measures that would avoid jeopardy and adverse modification in response to the BiOps. EPA's failure to implement the RPAs and RPMs is allowing toxic pesticides to continue to contaminate the waters of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California; harm listed salmonids; and injure the commercial enterprises and communities that depend on salmonid fishing for their livelihoods."

The pesticides destroy salmon in a welter of ways: "NMFS concluded in both the OP BiOp and the Carbamate BiOp that the current uses of the three OP pesticides and the three Carbamate pesticides are taking ESA-listed salmonids in a number of ways, including direct mortality and injury to adults and juveniles, and harm to olfactory (homing) sense, impaired growth and feeding, reproductive impairment and impacts to salmonid prey."

The pesticides also destroy habitat. The complaint adds: "Pesticides have been detected in each of the major salmonid rivers in the Pacific Northwest and California monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey, sometimes at levels unsafe for aquatic life. Plaintiffs Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, Institute for Fisheries Resources, and Defenders of Wildlife seek to ensure that pesticides used in the Pacific Northwest and California will not jeopardize the continued existence of listed salmonids, adversely affect their critical habitat, or cause harm to salmonids that could be avoided with appropriate mitigation.

"This is the fourth time that some of the plaintiffs have returned to this Court

because the Environmental Protection Agency ('EPA') has failed to ensure that pesticides registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act ('FIFRA') will not jeopardize the continued existence of listed salmonids."

The sixth pesticide at issue, a carbamate, is chlorpyrifos. Private gardeners and homeowners also use many of the pesticides.

The environmental groups want use of the six pesticides enjoined "until such time as EPA has put in place permanent measures that ensure against likely jeopardy to listed salmon and steelhead or adverse modification of their critical habitat, and an order compelling EPA to put in place such permanent measures within one year."

They are represented by Stephen Mashuda and Amanda Goodin with Earthjustice.

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