Foraging Dim Sum

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On our hunt for the wily pork buns, potstickers and shumai rumored to inhabit select regions of the Northwest, we were joined by the Bennett family–Josie, Marie and fellow fish guy, Brian–as we combed through the wilds of Seattle’s International District. Our quest led us to this secret “Location X” where we also scored the rare and delicious har-gow (shrimp dumplings) and some sticky rice, which was well hidden in dense leaves…

Sometimes you just have to get out of the woods and off The Rock, as Bainbridge Island is affectionately known, and go get some dim sum. Last weekend, the fast and decisive withdrawal of spraying permits for pesticides on coastal oyster beds seemed like reason enough to celebrate. So we stuffed ourselves with dim sum, visited with our friends, and enjoyed the beautiful weather as we strolled around the city. Well worth the effort.

Stay tuned…I think I’m going to have some cool stuff for you here shortly. And if it takes a little while, please be patient. Hope you are all well.

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Oyster Spray Update: The Power Of Protest

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Yesterday, oyster growers from Willapa and Grays Harbor Bays sent a letter to the Washington State Department of Ecology requesting withdrawal of the permit to spray imidacloprid. The reason had nothing to do with potential harmful effects of the neurotoxin on the environment, but rather, the harmful effects of angry customers on the oyster business. In other words, you. To which I would like to add a hearty thank you and job-well-done. It was your phone calls and e-mails that stopped the spraying.

Victory, yes. But it should be a cautious one: The industrial oyster farms will still be spraying oyster beds with Imazamox, a powerful herbicide, to kill both native and non-native eelgrass, which just happen to be critical habitat for juvenile salmon. And they will still need to do something to kill the native burrowing shrimp. Imidacloprid was supposed to be the “safe” alternative to Carbaryl, which they used for years. But now there is word that Carbaryl may be on the table again, and if not that, rest assured, they will come up with another pesticide. Agent Orange? Sarin? Asbestos?

Maia Bellon, the Director of Ecology, said in the paper today, “One of our agency’s goals is to reduce toxics in our environment.” My question is, after a completely non-transparent approval of Imidacloprid, and years of approving Imazamox and Carbaryl…does anyone believe her?

Perhaps the best news to come of this whole spraying issue is that now we all know quite a bit more about the oyster business. The dirty secrets have been revealed, and the myth of the big, eco-friendly shellfish farm has exploded. I think more than a few of us will think twice before buying oysters raised under industrial growing conditions. We will also turn our support to the small growers who are committed to more responsible and natural growing techniques. They are out there.

The task of knowing what to eat grows more difficult by the day. But this proves, yet again, that the more we know, the better (and healthier) we eat. And when we say we won’t eat irresponsibly raised food, we force companies to change. That’s power.


Neurotoxin: Coming Soon To A Bay Near You

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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/marcop@taylorshellfish.com.

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/eluho@eluho.wa.gov.

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