National Marine Fisheries Services to Review
by Hal Bernton
The National Marine Fisheries Services will review the effects of 37 pesticides on salmon and steelhead under a lawsuit settlement reached Wednesday with environmental and fishing groups.
The federal fisheries agency will complete the reviews over a four-year period. The first deadlines are in October, when the agency is supposed to finalize three biological opinions on organophosphate pesticides.
Most of the 37 pesticides have been found in California and Pacific Northwest rivers used by salmon and steelhead. Currently, a court order requires farmers - as a temporary measure - to leave buffer strips between fields sprayed with these pesticides and many salmon streams, according to Joshua Osborne-Klein, an attorney for Earthjustice, which represents the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs include the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations. They are hoping the studies will lead to new science-based measures to protect streams from pesticides that pose a risk to salmon and steelhead.
Earlier studies by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) indicate that trace amounts of one organophosphate insecticide - diazinon - can affect the salmon's nervous systems in levels as low as one to 10 parts per billion. Others studies have indicated that pesticides can affect swimming ability and growth.
"We are very encouraged by the fact that NMFS has agreed to go through this process but will remain vigilant," Osborne-Klein said.
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