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EPA To Finally Restrict Deadly Pesticides in Northwest

The EPA will soon move to restrict the use of three deadly pesticides that threaten the existence and critical habitat of endangered Pacific salmon and steelhead. The move comes after pesticide manufacturers refused to voluntarily restrict the use of three organophosphate pesticides that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) concluded would jeopardize the existence of 27 species of Pacific salmon and steelhead, and destroy or adversely modify the critical habitat for 25 of those species. 

Higher concentrations of diazinon, malathion and chlorpyrifos can directly kill salmon and their prey. Even at low doses, federal biologists have found that the chemicals can interfere with salmon reproduction, growth, and sense of smell, making it harder for them to find food, avoid predators and return to native waters to spawn.

The EPA action is in response to a 2001 Earthjustice lawsuit that led to an evaluation of the toxic pesticides by NMFS fishery experts. The agency determined that no-spray buffer zones next to streams and vegetated strips to catch pesticide-laden runoff from fields are needed to protect salmon, and required that these and other measures be implemented within one year. Though the chemical industry has asked EPA to further delay implementation of any protective measures, conservationists and fishermen are hoping that EPA will reject those efforts and quickly implement the strong fish protections that NMFS required.

"We are encouraged that EPA is finally getting serious about implementing these protections and hope the government moves quickly to ensure that pesticides are removed from Northwest salmon waters," said Earthjustice attorney Steve Mashuda.