Thursday, July 26, 2018

Imidacloprid Toxicity

Washington State Department of Ecology is Right

Dear Editor Chinook Observer,
(Published Wednesday July 4, 2018, print edition.)

Senator Takko is wrong, the Department of Ecology is right!

The Willapa Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association has been denied a permit to spray the neonicotinoid --imidacloprid in our bay, based on current science.

We can begin to understand neonicotinoid toxicity generally, and imidacloprid toxicity specifically, simply by reading the label:  “Environmental Hazards, Do not apply directly to water, areas where surface water is present or to intertidal areas below the mean high water mark.” “This product is toxic to wildlife and highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates.” (Invertebrates are animals without backbones, like crabs and shrimp and shellfish.) The following statement is also given on the label: “PRECAUTIONARY STATEMENTS, HAZARDS TO HUMANS AND DOMESTIC ANIMALS CAUTION.” Page 5 (2014):   <>

Speaking of hazards to humans: “Four general population studies reported associations between chronic neonic exposure and adverse developmental or neurological out comes, including tetralogy of Fallot” (a congenital heart defect), “anencephaly” (children born with part or all of the brain missing), “autism spectrum disorder, and a symptom cluster including memory loss and finger tremor.” (2016)   <>

The environmental hazards include: " . . .  that they are persistent . . .  and are highly toxic to a wide range of invertebrates."  (2014):   <>

A more recent environmental study shows: “. . . . the initial toxicity assessment of this insecticide was flawed.” “. . . most of the organisms do not die immediately but start dying in large numbers after a week, and their populations disappear completely after a few weeks . . .”  “Neonicotinoids bind irreversibly to the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) embedded in the synaptic membranes of neurons” (nerve and brain cells), “and their activation elicits a continuous electric impulse that eventually leads to the death of the neuron. The neuronal death toll accumulates as more and more chemical molecules bind to other nAChRs until the organism cannot cope with the damage and dies . . .” “. . . effects are cumulative with time, because neurons do not regenerate. It has been termed time-cumulative toxicity . . .”  “ . . . exposure to neonicotinoids causes a number of sublethal effects on aquatic organisms, such as feeding inhibition, impaired movement , reduced fecundity , reduced body size in . . .  fish and immune-suppression in fish . . . “ “ . . . vertebrates that depend on insects and other aquatic invertebrates as their sole or main food resource are being affected.”  Vertebrates have backbones--like us and fish and birds.   Fish are important to our commercial and recreational fisheries, and birds are very important to our tourism industry and to our ecosystem as well. (2016):  <>

Science is an ongoing process. What we know continues to grow. What we knew in 2015, based on the above referenced documents from 2014, should have been enough to ban imidicloprid use in our bay. We know even more today.  Any increased risk, no matter how small, of infants being born without parts of their brain is unacceptable.  And this is not the only risk to us or to our environment from this poison.  We should never forget that oysters are filter feeders.  When we eat oysters from our bay, we are eating everything dumped, spread, or sprayed in our bay.  We should be grateful that the Washington State Department of Ecology has put science over politics in an effort to protect us, and to protect the essential ecosystem of our bay that produces abundant and diverse foods which we enjoy and which our economy depends on.  

Thank you,

Harvest McCampbell

Pesticide Not Needed For Oyster Production

There are alternatives to shrimp pesticide

Dear Editor Chinook Observer,
(Published Wednesday June 13, 2018, print edition.)

I am writing in response to the Science Conference report.  The section on oysters reads more like marketing rhetoric for chemical companies than it does like actual oyster related facts.

The oysters most commonly grown in our bay now, are known as Pacific oysters and were originally from Japan.  These oysters, like most oysters, are not adapted to living on mud.  In their natural habitat they attach to hard clean surfaces.  Off bottom culture is often ideal, to keep them off the mud; it has been practiced in many places around the world since at least the Roman Era.

Flip and tumble bag culture is nothing new.  It is used on the East Coast of the US to produce the medium sized, premium, deep cupped and neat shelled oysters prized by the half-shell market.  There are many other types of off bottom culture being used in the US and around the world.  These techniques include tumble cages, stationary or removable tray culture with substantial supports, and floating systems.  

In many areas of our East and Gulf Coasts, oyster reefs are being reestablished.  They rely on a variety of structural supports including pyramids or berms made of bagged or caged oyster shells.  They can also include recycled concrete.  Seeding of oysters on to these structures relies on natural sources or hatchery larvae.  In some areas the restored reefs have existed long enough for oysters to be harvested.  Our native Olympia oysters originally grew on oyster reefs, which kept them out of the mud, out of conflict with burrowing shrimp, and provided overall ecosystem benefits as well.

Burrowing shrimp, by the way, are not an invasive species.  They are native to our area.  They are an important environmental keystone species, providing ecosystem benefits, and they existed here for millions of years alongside our native oysters.  Burrowing shrimp are repelled by eelgrass.  

Destruction of eelgrass beds is on-going in our bay by the intentional use of herbicides.  It is also well documented that human caused impacts to the ecosystem have severely reduced burrowing shrimp predators, and changed the ecology in other ways that benefit some species of burrowing shrimp.  Meanwhile, other species of burrowing shrimp are now threatened by an invasive non-native parasite.  There is concern that the affected species may not survive.

Imidacloprid is a neonicotinoid insecticide that has recently been banned for all outdoor use in most member states of the European Union, because of devastating ecosystem effects and negative health effects on human beings.   The very same salmon mentioned in another part of the article depend on tiny creatures in our bay to reach a healthy size before entering the ocean.  Imidacloprid spread or sprayed in our bay will further negatively affect our salmon runs by killing the food they depend on.  Many other species depend on the creatures that would be killed by imidacloprid, including our endangered sturgeon.  And imidacloprid is directly toxic to arthropods of commercial interest, namely our market shrimp and crabs.  

The Willapa Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association is the only oyster growers association in the US which wishes to use this deadly ecosystem toxin in coastal waters.  The much larger Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association has publicly repudiated the idea.   Please do not forget that oysters are filter feeders and that if you eat our local oysters you are eating everything that gets dumped into our bay.  

The Department of Ecology made the right decision, based on peer reviewed scientific studies and reports.  For more information on the science please visit the Facebook group, Resisting Toxics in CoastalEnvironments.  

Thank you, 

Harvest McCampbell

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Want Your Clams and Oysters Without Poison?

Take Action Now!  

Large commercial oysters growers are seeking a permit to spray the systemic and environmentally hazardous neonicotinoid neurotoxin—Imidacloprid--on tidal mudflats.  

No Poison in our Clams and Oysters!

If they are successful this will create a precedent for allowing this environmentally hazardous chemical to be sprayed in wetlands and inter-tidal zones in other states as well.  While this permit application is for Washington State, if approved it will likely affect many other areas.

This product is clearly marked on the label, “Environmental Hazards, Do not apply directly to water, areas where surface water is present or to inter-tidal areas below the mean high water mark.”  “This product is toxic to wildlife and highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates.”   The following statement is also given on the label:  “PRECAUTIONARY STATEMENTS, HAZARDS TO HUMANS AND DOMESTIC ANIMALS CAUTION.”   Source, page 5:

The State of Washington has temporarily denied the permit, based on sound science.  They are requesting public comment.  The comment period is open until May 14th, 2018.  Comments can be made at the following link:

The Imidacloprid permit request is for using this chemical in non-native commercial oyster beds, where it has been shown that it binds to sediment particles and persists for many months.  This product has been shown to be toxic to arthropods, mollusks, and worms in terrestrial, aquatic, and marine environments.  While binding to sediment particles, Imidacloprid solution that comes in contact with water disperses readily.  When absorbed by susceptible creatures it binds permanently and cumulatively to sites in their cellular structures.  Many of the susceptible creatures are important to the food web, and their demise--as well as the demise of the native burrowing shrimp they wish to target-- will affect the entire ecosystem.  The burrowing shrimp are an important keystone species in our coastal wetland ecosystems.

If you would like to learn more about the importance of burrowing shrimp, the dangers of Imidacloprid, or sustainable alternatives to off bottom culture for oyster growers please stop by the facebook group, Resisting Toxics in Coastal Environments.  We have collected a large body of evidence addressing these issues which we would be happy to share with all interested persons. 
Our priorities are to encourage lasting solutions that will help the industry end its long-standing reliance on pesticides and create conditions amenable to ecologically and economically sustainable fisheries and  shellfish aquaculture.  

It is up to us!  We can do this!


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