West Coast Salmon Show Up in East Coast Courtroom

by Lori Abbott |
Posted: Thursday, October 25, 2012 11:30 am

A federal court in Virginia is being asked today to overturn a decision with major impacts on salmon and steelhead in California and three other western states.

The National Marine Fisheries Service recommends buffers of at least 500 feet where certain pesticides can’t be sprayed around salmon streams, and last year, a lower court agreed. But Dow Chemical and two other manufacturers are fighting the decision, saying buffers aren’t necessary and will cost them business.

Steve Mashuda, an Earthjustice attorney representing wildlife advocates in the case, says the feds had discussed banning these pesticides altogether but compromised with the buffer zone.

“These pesticides turn up in West Coast streams virtually everywhere, and they turn up in concentrations that are sometimes as high as 1,000 times the limit that EPA itself has imposed.”

Mashuda says the chemicals, called organophosphates, are lethal to the fish even in low concentrations, but still are widely used on farms.

The chemicals that were developed after World War II have been found to have negative effects on human health. Mashuda says there are less hazardous alternative products, as well as new farming methods, to kill pests without harming fish and wildlife.

“Not only other pesticide alternatives that are less toxic, but there’s also integrated pest-management techniques, and cultural practices, even organic practices, that don’t rely on these pesticides at all, or nearly as much.”

The case is being heard in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia because that’s the closest appeals court to the Fisheries Service headquarters.

Other parties in the appeal are Cheminova, which makes malathion, and Makhteshiam Agan, which makes diazinon.