Two bills were just introduced into the Washington State legislature that would permit the use of a neurotoxin to kill burrowing shrimp in areas where oysters are being grown commercially. This insecticide, imidacloprid, was not developed for marine use, and the overwhelming consensus of studies conducted both by the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is that spraying this insecticide in the marine environment is too risky. In addition to killing burrowing shrimp, it kills crabs, zooplankton, and free-swimming crustaceans. It’s nasty stuff.
The new bills are an attempt to circumvent the State Environmental Policy Act, by basically stating that environmental impact assessments can not be conducted regarding the application of imidacloprid. The bill’s sponsors want the legislature to ignore an 885-page report that details the harmful impacts of this neurotoxin on the environment.
The answer is simple, according to the legistlation’s primary sponsor, Senator Dean Takko. He insists that negative scientific findings are the result of “agenda-driven environmentalists.”
Are environmentalists truly agenda-driven? Well, allow me to become the first environmentalist in Washington to cop to having an agenda. It’s no secret: my agenda is the preservation of the biosphere. This includes preserving the benthic community that Senator Takko is trying to poison.
I encourage my fellow agenda-driven environmentalists to speak out against Senate Bill 5626 and House Bill 1611. Aquaculture has developed effective ways to grow oysters by suspending them off the bottom substrate. Yes, it’s cheaper just to spay neurotoxins indiscriminately, but I don’t mind paying a bit more for oysters that have been grown in a manner that protects the underwater community. For now, my agenda has expanded to include helping the Washington State legislature to learn to respect the State Environmental Policy Act.
Journal of Natural Hist. Ed.
Natural History Institute
Center for Humans & Nature