PANNA: Sweeping Ruling Protects Salmon from Pesticides


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Sweeping Ruling Protects Salmon from Pesticides

February 02, 2004

A federal court recently ordered establishment of “no-spray” buffer zones near streams for applications of 38 commonly used pesticides in Washington, Oregon and California. The ruling, designed to protect salmon throughout the Pacific Northwest, also requires that signs warning consumers of “Salmon Hazard” be placed on store shelves in major West Coast cities where seven pesticides frequently found to contaminant urban streams are sold.

“This is a landmark decision that finally gives salmon relief from pesticides after a decade of agency inaction,” said Patti Goldman, the Earthjustice attorney representing the groups. “The court has blocked the use of the most harmful pesticides along salmon streams until the government has ensured that salmon will be protected.”

The precedent setting court ruling follows an earlier ruling by the same court in 2002 that found the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) out of compliance with the Endangered Species Act for failing to protect salmon from harmful pesticides. In that ruling, the court ordered U.S. EPA to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Services (NOAA Fisheries) over a two and a half year timeline to establish permanent restrictions to protect salmon from 54 pesticides. After the 2002 ruling, environmental and fishing groups filed for an injunction to reduce contamination of salmon streams until U.S. EPA and NOAA Fisheries develop permanent restrictions (see PANUPs; Lawsuit to Protect Salmon from Pesticides, Feb 1, 2001, and Salmon May Get Pesticide Buffers, October 31, 2003,

The January 22, 2004 ruling provides interim measures to protect salmon from 38 pesticides during the time U.S. EPA takes to comply with the law. The court order states, “with reasonable scientific certainty, that the requested buffer zones, 20 yards for ground applications, 100 yards for aerial applications, will, unlike the status quo, substantially contribute to the prevention of jeopardy” to salmon. The judge’s decision also finds that the evidence “demonstrate[s] that pesticide-application buffer zones are a common, simple, and effective strategy to avoid jeopardy to threatened and endangered salmonids.”

“There is no ‘right’ to pollute rivers, kill fish and destroy public resources our people depend on for their livelihoods,” said Glen Spain of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, a commercial fishing industry group and a co-plaintiff in the suit. “Most of these chemicals are not supposed to be used near water to begin with, but they are nevertheless showing up in our rivers where they can kill valuable fisheries. Reasonable buffer zones to keep these poisons out of our rivers only make sense.”

The court has required the posting of consumer warning notices in urban garden and hardware stores where products containing seven pesticides are sold; 2,4-D, carbaryl, diazinon, diuron, malathion, triclopyr BEE, and trifluralin. The warnings will read, “SALMON HAZARD. This product contains pesticides that may harm salmon or steelhead. Use of this product in urban areas can pollute salmon streams.” Aimee Code of the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides applauded the court’s decision, saying “Now consumers buying lawn and garden products can easily make informed choices that are better for salmon.”

The buffer zones will become effective February 5, 2004 and will apply to salmon streams that support threatened and endangered salmon throughout Washington, Oregon, and California.
For the list of 38 pesticides requiring protective buffer zones due to their potential risk to salmon see the Washington Toxics Coalition website,

Sources: Press release, Washington Toxics Coalition, Earthjustice, Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Jan 22, 2004; Pesticides restricted to protect salmon; West Coast ruling is sweeping, Seattle Times, January 23, 2004.
Contact: Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Phone (541) 344 5044, email i[email protected], web site; Washington Toxics Coalition, Phone, (206) 632 1545, email: [email protected], web site PANNA.

PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don’t always get coverage by the mainstream media. It’s produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.

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