(Beyond Pesticides, May 19, 2009) Nearly six months after federal scientists began issuing restrictions to protect salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest and California, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has yet to take even the first step toward implementing these protections. This delay follows almost a decade of legal wrangling in which a coalition of environmental and fishing groups, led by the non-profit public interest law firm Earthjustice, won a court order.
Tell EPA to stop its foot-dragging and protect salmon and steelhead from toxic pesticides.
The six pesticides that scientists have reviewed so far are some of the most dangerous chemicals used today. All sixâ€”chlorpyrifos, diazinon, malathion, carbaryl, carbofuran, and methomylâ€”are neurotoxic and pose serious risks to both humans and wildlife. While many of these pesticides have been phased out for residential use, they continue to expose wildlife and farmworkers through their use in agriculture. Thirty-one more chemicals will undergo review by scientists at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in the next three years.
The new restrictions require EPA to prohibit application of the six pesticides in or near salmon and steelhead habitat. They also require EPA to prohibit application when the weather may cause the pesticides to drift or run off into streams.
EPA has one year to fully implement these restrictions or face liability under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). While it has been over six months since fisheries biologists released the first set of directions, EPA has yet to take even the first step toward implementing the necessary protections. Take a few moments and tell EPA to get moving.
— Even at low levels, these toxic pesticides harm salmon and steelhead by causing abnormal sexual development, impairing swimming ability, reducing growth rates, and killing salmon prey.
— These pesticides pose serious risks to public healthâ€”especially the health of young children. All six chemicals are potent neurotoxins, and some are listed as likely carcinogens.
— The states and other federal agencies have invested hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to protect endangered salmon runs. EPA is undermining that investment by not immediately taking steps to keep dangerous pesticides out of salmon habitat.
In 2002, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermenâ€™s Associations, the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Washington Toxics Coalition, and other salmon advocates, with legal representation from Earthjustice, obtained a federal court order declaring that EPA had violated ESA by failing to consult with NMFS on the impacts that certain pesticides have on salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest and California. As a result of that lawsuit, EPA began consultations, but NMFS never issued biological opinions or identified the measures needed to protect salmon and steelhead from the pesticides. In 2007, the salmon advocates filed a second lawsuit and entered into a settlement agreement with NMFS that establishes a schedule for issuing the required biological opinions. The six pesticides reviewed so far were done so in the first two of such biological opinions. Thirty-one more pesticides will undergo review by NMFS over the next three years. The next opinion, reviewing 12 pesticides, is due on June 30, 2010.