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Daily News Blog

17
Jan

Controversial Pesticides Jeopardize Endangered Species Like Salmon

(Beyond Pesticides, January 17, 2018) The organophosphate insecticides chlorpyrifos, malathion, and diazinon are likely to jeopardize the continued existence of endangered species and adversely modify their critical habitats, according to the newly released report from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The insecticide cholorpyrifos, whose ban was rescinded by the Trump Administration last year, despite overwhelming evidence of neurological and brain damage to children, is once again being shown to be too toxic for continued use.

Under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), any agency action requires a finding that it “is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of habitat.” The December 31, 2017 Biological Opinion from NMFS followed an ecological assessment that relied upon multiple lines of evidence to determine effects to species and their designated habitats. These include “the direct and indirect toxicity of each chemical to aquatic taxa groups (e.g. fish, mammals, invertebrates); specific chemical characteristics of each pesticide (e.g. degradation rates, bioaccumulation rates, sorption affinities, etc.); expected environmental concentrations calculated for generic aquatic habitats; authorized pesticide product labels; maps showing the spatial overlap of listed species’ habitats with pesticide use areas; and species’ temporal use of those lands and/or aquatic habitats on which each pesticide has permitted uses.”

The Biological Opinion finds, “[P]esticides containing chlorpyrifos are likely to jeopardize the continued existence of 38 of the 77 listed species, and adversely modify 37 of the 50 designated critical habitats.” For malathion, 38 of 77 listed species are likely to be jeopardized and 37 of the 50 designated critical habitats adversely modified. Likewise, diazinon jeopardizes 25 of 77 listed species and adverse modifies 18 of the 50 designated critical habitats. Species affected include salmon, steelhead, sturgeon, coral, sea turtles, as well as orcas and seals that depend on salmon as a food source.

This Biological Opinion, which resulted from a from a lawsuit filed against EPA in 2014 for failure to comply with the ESA, is in line with the 2016 findings by EPA that chlorpyrifos and malathion are “likely to adversely affect” 97% of listed and candidate species and diazinon “likely to adversely affect” 79% of endangered species” under the ESA. Although EPA is required to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and NMFS when registering a pesticide, the agencies have been sued over the years for disregarding this requirement and failing to ensure adequate protections for endangered species. A 2013 report from the National Academy of Sciences identified deficiencies and provided recommendations for all the agencies involved in pesticide consultations.

The three organophosphates are highly toxic to mammals, fish, and aquatic invertebrates, and are used widely in agriculture, forested lands, and even mosquito spraying. According to NMFS, current application of these pesticides produces aquatic concentrations that are likely to harm aquatic species as well as contaminate their designated critical habitats. Species and their prey residing in shallow aquatic habitats proximal to pesticide use sites are expected to be the most at risk. NMFS made several risk reduction recommendations including no-spray buffer zones of greater than 300m alongside habitats, and removal of high-risk label uses.

According to Earthjustice, federal inaction against these pesticides puts at risk billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. Salmon and steelhead fishing in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Northern California is responsible for $1.25 billion to the regional economy and support more than 62,000 family wage jobs. But salmon populations have declined over the years due to damming activity, climate change, widespread habitat loss, and pesticide runoff.  Scientists have found that, even at low levels, pesticides can cause the abnormal sexual development of salmon and impair their swimming ability, growth, development, behavior, and reproduction.

Represented by the public interest law group Earthjustice, several stakeholder organizations including the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), filed suit in January 2001 to force EPA to fulfill the distinct ESA requirements. Specifically, the lawsuit challenged EPA’s decision to register 54 pesticides without first consulting with federal fish biologists regarding the potential impact on protected salmon and steelhead species in the Northwest. The judge, in a lawsuit initiated in 2002, called EPA’s “wholesale non-compliance” with its ESA obligations “patently unlawful” and ordered the agency to consult with NMFS regarding adverse impacts on the Northwest runs. EPA’s failure to consult with FWS on the impacts of hundreds of pesticides known to be harmful to more than 200 listed species prompted a 2011 lawsuit.

NMFS had a Dec. 31, 2017 for issuing its Biological Opinion for the impact of chlorpyrifos, malathion, and diazinon on listed and critical species in consultation with the EPA as a result of the 2014 lawsuit. But after the new Trump Administration was sworn in, Dow AgroSciences attempted to thwart the consultation process, and delay the final report.

Chlorpyrifos is highly neurotoxic and its agricultural uses were proposed to be revoked due to findings and recommendations of EPA’s own scientists and a 2016 Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP). However, one of Administrator Scott Pruitt’s first acts in office was to rescind the proposal, claiming more evidence was needed. But the scientific literature is filled with evidence of chlorpyrifos’ impact on children’s developing brains and long-term impact on cognitive function, IQs and neurological disorders like ADHD and autism. Malathion and diazinon are also neurotoxic and harm wildlife like honey bees, other beneficial insects, and non-target wildlife.

The dangers that these highly toxic pesticides pose to species already at risk of extinction are unjustifiable in view of the success of organic crop production.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Earthjustice Press Release

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