NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015

Department of Ecology, oyster growers cancel plans to spray neurotoxin in Willapa Bay

Hal­lelu­jah! Via a news release sent by the Depart­ment of Ecol­o­gy:

Fol­low­ing dis­cus­sions over the week­end, the Depart­ment of Ecol­o­gy and the Willa­pa-Grays Har­bor Oys­ter Grow­ers Asso­ci­a­tion (WGHOGA) have agreed to can­cel a recent­ly issued per­mit for use of imi­da­clo­prid to con­trol bur­row­ing shrimp.

“One of our agency’s goals is to reduce tox­i­cs in our envi­ron­ment,” said Ecol­o­gy Direc­tor Maia Bel­lon. “We’ve heard loud and clear from peo­ple across Wash­ing­ton that this per­mit didn’t meet their expec­ta­tions, and we respect the grow­ers’ response.”

The per­mit came at the request of WGHOGA for an alter­na­tive to car­baryl, a pes­ti­cide used since the 1960s. The per­mit placed strict usage rules on a new U.S. EPA approved reg­is­tra­tion of imi­da­clo­prid, a com­mon­ly used pes­ti­cide, to con­trol the pop­u­la­tion of bur­row­ing shrimp in Willa­pa Bay and Grays Harbor.

The shrimp bur­row into shell­fish beds, mak­ing the ground too soft for oys­ters, caus­ing them to suffocate.

“We believe we have no choice but to with­draw our per­mit and address these issues to the sat­is­fac­tion of our cus­tomer base, and the pub­lic,” said Don Gillies, pres­i­dent of the WGHOGA, in the let­ter request­ing with­draw­al of the permit.

The WGHOGA sub­mit­ted the let­ter with­draw­ing their appli­ca­tion for the per­mit on Sun­day, May 3. Ecol­o­gy staff will now com­plete the paper­work to can­cel the per­mit on Mon­day, May 4.

The can­cel­la­tion of this per­mit is a huge vic­to­ry for the peo­ple, flo­ra, and fau­na of the State of Wash­ing­ton. Ecol­o­gy made a griev­ous error by giv­ing the oys­ter grow­ers asso­ci­a­tion per­mis­sion to spray a tox­ic pes­ti­cide in Willa­pa Bay in the first place. They erred once more when they tried to defend the plan once peo­ple found out about it, instead of rec­og­niz­ing and admit­ting they’d made a mis­take.

The whole rea­son we have a Depart­ment of Ecol­o­gy to begin with is to ensure that our air, water, and soil are pro­tect­ed… par­tic­u­lar­ly from harm inflict­ed by com­pa­nies and indus­tries that care­less­ly put prof­it ahead of planet.

In this case, Ecol­o­gy let the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton down, big time. They told WGHOGA yes when they should have said, “NO!”

It’s worth not­ing that Ecol­o­gy has for years allowed oys­ter grow­ers to spray oth­er chem­i­cals into our waters to kill bur­row­ing shrimp — which is a native species! — so that they could con­tin­ue farm­ing non-native oys­ters en masse.

It’s sad that, instead of real­iz­ing, maybe nature’s try­ing to tell us some­thing, Ecol­o­gy went along with WGHOGA’s plan to spray a neu­ro­tox­in-laden pes­ti­cide not meant for use in an aquat­ic envi­ron­ment in Willa­pa Bay.

But appar­ent­ly it was busi­ness as usu­al, which is indica­tive of a seri­ous prob­lem with how Ecol­o­gy is oper­at­ing. As I said, Ecol­o­gy’s mis­sion is to pro­tect Wash­ing­ton’s air, water, and soil. It’s not to pro­tect the bot­tom lines of Wash­ing­ton’s businesses.

Per­haps Ecol­o­gy needs a change of lead­er­ship. At the very least, its exist­ing lead­er­ship need a seri­ous talk­ing-to. Ecol­o­gy must reori­ent itself so that its work is tru­ly guid­ed by Wash­ing­ton’s val­ues and by sound science.

This is impor­tant. We sim­ply can’t con­tin­ue to do things the way we’ve done them in the past. It isn’t sus­tain­able. It won’t do. We are bet­ter than this.

Even if Ecol­o­gy failed us, we can at least be thank­ful that the media did its job for once. WGHOGA’s plan would have almost cer­tain­ly gone ahead were it not for the neg­a­tive pub­lic­i­ty that was gen­er­at­ed by the out­stand­ing jour­nal­ism of Bill Don­ahue and the fine col­umn-writ­ing of Dan­ny West­neat. It sparked a need­ed pub­lic out­cry.

Bill and Dan­ny packed an effec­tive one-two punch, shin­ing a much need­ed spot­light on a very bad deci­sion. Thanks to them, the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton had an oppor­tu­ni­ty to weigh in and speak out against this absur­di­ty before the oys­ter grow­ers began pump­ing tox­ic chem­i­cals out of heli­copters and into Willa­pa Bay.

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