Neurotoxin: Coming Soon To A Bay Near You


At first I thought this had to be someone’s idea of a bad joke. Helicopters spraying toxic pesticides on some of the most pristine waters of Washington state? But it turns out, the joke is on us, our fish, crabs, shorebirds, waterfowl and all the other critters that live in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. If you haven’t heard: On May 17th, oyster farmers on those two coastal bays plan to spray imidacloprid, a water-soluble neurotoxin, across 2,000 acres of tideflats.

This, despite the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA opposing the spraying, and the fact that the warning label on imidacloprid states “This product is highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates. Do not apply directly to water, or to areas where surface water is present or to intertidal areas below the mean high water mark.” And yet, for some reason, the Washington State Department of Ecology saw fit to issue a permit for it anyway.

Even worse, the planned application date, May 17th, falls during the peak abundance of juvenile salmon and steelhead as they migrate out to sea. To say nothing of  upcoming crab spawning season and heavy use by waterfowl in these areas.

Ecology says they “are confident this is going to work,” which seems more than a little optimistic, considering that imidacloprid has never been approved for use in a marine environment before.

Why are oyster farmers spraying the neurotoxin? To kill native burrowing shrimp that make the non-native, commercial oysters sink into the mud. Oysters are big business in this state, with 25% of all oysters sold in the U.S. coming from Willapa and Grays Harbor. And Taylor Shellfish, which led the effort for spraying approval, and the state’s biggest grower, appears to be embracing the concepts of industrial agriculture. At the expense of the rest of us.

On the business side of things, I keep wondering: Who’s going to want to eat these oysters after they’ve been doused with neurotoxin?

If you are an angler, hunter, birdwatcher, commercial crabber or fisherman; someone who enjoys eating oysters, or anyone who cares about transparency in government, please take a moment to protest.

Contact Marco Pinchot, who, according the the Taylor Shellfish website, deals with “community relations” and “sustainability” for Taylor and tell him you won’t buy or eat any oysters from Willapa or Grays Harbor if they go through with the spraying: 360.432.3310/

Contact Tom Morrill, Joan Marchioro and Kay Brown at the Washington State Pollution Control Hearing Board and demand they stop the experimental application of toxic pesticides on our bays: 360.664.9160/

And contact your state representatives or senator and tell them you won’t accept the spraying or the opaque process by which it was approved.


Helicopter photo courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


One Comment on “Neurotoxin: Coming Soon To A Bay Near You”

  1. satsukina1944 says:

    This is horrible. I will be on the phone tomorrow expressing my outrage. Once again, “profit” above all else, even if it kills us. Thank you for the heads up!

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