Quantcast

Salmon and Orca Survival Threatened by Chlorpyrifos Pesticide: Government Report

Animals
A coho salmon spawns on the Salmon River in Oregon. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A group of three widely used agricultural pesticides jeopardizes the survival of endangered salmon, according to a National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) biological opinion unveiled this week. Chlorpyrifos, malathion and diazinon—all organophosphate pesticides—harm salmon and their habitat to the point that their survival and recovery are at risk, according to the report. Southern Resident Killer Whales, or orcas, are also at risk as they depend on salmon.


The NMFS crafted the report to comply with a 2014 court deadline for the agency to determine whether these pesticides threatened salmon with extinction. Upon determining that these organophosphates jeopardize salmon survival, the biological opinion offers three options for protective measures to avoid that outcome with a variety of measures including buffer zones, spray reduction technologies and pesticide stewardship programs.

"The best available science clearly shows these pesticides are a major threat to endangered salmon and to our orca whales, which need salmon to survive," said Patti Goldman, managing attorney at Earthjustice. "These pesticides are bad for people every way they are exposed to it and toxic to salmon."

Chlorpyrifos, widely used in citrus, nuts and orchards, is acutely toxic and associated with neurodevelopmental harms in children. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) refused to ban chlorpyrifos in 2017, despite overwhelming evidence that shows the pesticide harms children, workers and the environment.

Malathion is used in more than 100 food crops, and about half of total applications in the U.S. are on alfalfa, cotton, rice and wheat. A number of growth anomalies have been observed when fish were exposed to malathion, according to studies. Diazinon is used on rice, fruit trees, sugarcane, corn, potatoes and horticultural plants.

NMFS had a Dec. 31, 2017, deadline for completing the consultations for these three pesticides, and was on track to meet this milestone and issue a biological opinion. Dow AgroSciences asked the agencies last April to derail the consultation process. Late last year, the Trump administration asked the courts to give agencies a two-year delay but complied with the 2017 deadline after Earthjustice and the fishermen and conservation groups it represents pushed back.

"Salmon have been waiting four decades for relief from toxic pesticides in many of our rivers," said Glen Spain, Northwest regional director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. "The agencies should do their job."

This case is one in a series of cases that have pushed to ensure that endangered salmon on the West Coast are safe from toxic pesticides, as required by the Endangered Species Act. In 2002, a successful lawsuit brought by Earthjustice established that the Environmental Protection Agency has the duty to protect salmon and comply with the Endangered Species Act when registering pesticides for use.

At that time, the U.S. District Court in Seattle found that the federal government had failed to protect 26 endangered and threatened species of salmon and steelhead from 54 toxic pesticides. The judge ordered EPA to consult with NMFS to identify permanent measures needed to protect the salmon and steelhead from the pesticides.

Since then and as a result of multiple lawsuits, the EPA started the process of consulting with NMFS to determine whether EPA's pesticide registrations impacts endangered salmon and steelhead. The Fisheries Service delayed doing its part, which led to this lawsuit and court-ordered deadlines.

Pesticides have profound effects on Northwest salmon and are a serious factor in their decline. Now that the biological opinion has been released, fishermen and conservation groups want the EPA to move expeditiously to put the protective measures in place.

"Those of us who fight to protect and restore rivers and their critical fisheries are very pleased that the biological opinions were released," said Sharon Selvaggio, of Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides. "To protect salmon, we need to respond to what the science is showing us."

Federal government inaction puts at risk billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. As recently as the late 1980s, salmon and steelhead fishing in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Northern California brought in $1.25 billion to the regional economy and supported more than 62,000 family wage jobs, according to independent economic studies. Government studies from Washington, Oregon and California show the economic benefits of dwindling salmon have grown exponentially since then.

Salmon runs have declined because of dams, 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.

Earthjustice is handling the case on behalf of Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, and Institute for Fisheries Resources.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Micromobility is the future of transportation in cities, but cities and investors need to plan ahead to avoid challenges. Jonny Kennaugh / Unsplash

By Carlo Ratti, Ida Auken

On the window of a bike shop in Copenhagen, a sign reads: Your next car is a bike.

Read More Show Less
An American flag waves in the wind at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, California on May 17 where a trial against Monsanto took place. Alva and Alberta Pilliod, were awarded more than $2 billion in damages in their lawsuit against Monsanto, though the judge in the case lowered the damage award to $87 million. JOSH EDELSON / AFP / Getty Images

By Carey Gillam

For the last five years, Chris Stevick has helped his wife Elaine in her battle against a vicious type of cancer that the couple believes was caused by Elaine's repeated use of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide around a California property the couple owned. Now the roles are reversed as Elaine must help Chris face his own cancer.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Butterfly habitats have fallen 77 percent in the last 50 years. Pixabay / Pexels

The last 50 years have been brutal for wildlife. Animals have lost their habitats and seen their numbers plummet. Now a new report from a British conservation group warns that habitat destruction and increased pesticide use has on a trajectory for an "insect apocalypse," which will have dire consequences for humans and all life on Earth, as The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less
Six of the nineteen wind turbines which were installed on Frodsham Marsh, near the coal-powered Fiddler's Ferry power station, in Helsby, England on Feb. 7, 2017.

Sales of electric cars are surging and the world is generating more and more power from renewable sources, but it is not enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to stop the global climate crisis, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Read More Show Less
"Globally, we're starting to see examples of retailers moving away from plastics and throwaway packaging, but not at the urgency and scale needed to address this crisis." Greenpeace

By Jake Johnson

A Greenpeace report released Tuesday uses a hypothetical "Smart Supermarket" that has done away with environmentally damaging single-use plastics to outline a possible future in which the world's oceans and communities are free of bags, bottles, packaging and other harmful plastic pollutants.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Children are forced to wear masks due to the toxic smoke from peat land fires in Indonesia. Aulia Erlangga / CIFOR

By Irene Banos Ruiz

Pediatricians in New Delhi, India, say children's lungs are no longer pink, but black.

Our warming planet is already impacting the health of the world's children and will shape the future of an entire generation if we fail to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (35.6°F), the 2019 Lancet Countdown Report on health and climate change shows.

Read More Show Less
Private homes surround a 20 inch gas liquids pipeline which is part of the Mariner East II project on Oct. 5, 2017 in Marchwood, Penn. Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images

The FBI is looking into how the state of Pennsylvania granted permits for a controversial natural gas pipeline as part of a corruption investigation, the AP reports.

Read More Show Less
Three cows who were washed off their North Carolina island by Hurricane Dorian have been found alive after swimming at least two miles. Carolina Wild Ones / Facebook

Three cows who were washed off their North Carolina island by Hurricane Dorian have been found alive after swimming at least two miles, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less