The growers are seeking a permit to spray imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid, on tideflats to control oyster pests called burrowing shrimp, which disrupt the muddy habitat and cause oysters to sink and suffocate. Use of the pesticide in Willapa Bay—where a mix of salt marsh, muddy tidelands, and freshwater wetlands provide habitat for over 200 bird species—stokes concerns among environmentalists that the chemical will kill a variety of insects and crustaceans that the birds and fish, such as salmon, rely upon for sustenance. The bay is the source of some 25 percent of the nation’s oysters.
Shellfish growers in Washington’s and nearby Gray’s Harbor are facing opposition from food activists and environmentalists over their proposal to spray a pesticide on tideflats to prevent losing up to 80 percent of their harvest.
“This neurotoxin will kill all the invertebrates that it touches,” Center for Food Safety staff attorney Amy van Saun told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 21. “We think there needs to be an option for the oyster growers that doesn’t involve a neurotoxin, especially on food that we are going to be eating.”
The center and other environmental and conservation organizations plan to submit comments on a draft now under consideration by the Washington State Department of Ecology. Agency spokeswoman Jessica Payne said the document could lead to the issuance of a permit to spray by the end of the year.
The state so far has not proposed any action or decided whether it will issue a state waste discharge permit under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System to allow the spraying, Payne told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 21.