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.