Mike Coverdale: Don’t play politics with the health of the bay

By Mike Coverdale

I was happy to see the front page attention paid to the ongoing attempts by the oyster industry to use unapproved toxins on our bay, but was discouraged to read how much of the article was devoted to showcasing our elected officials’ rationale for this “end around” attempt by the oyster growers.

It is important to point out that while there is a “long history” of oyster growers and pesticides, it started long before 2013, which was the date the reporter referenced.

The poisoning of our bays started in 1963 when a toxic nerve agent banned for use in or around water everywhere else in the country was approved for use in Willapa and Grays Harbor.

Carbaryl kills everything with a central nervous system so crab, sturgeon, salmon and all manner of wildlife fell victim to the oyster industry’s desire to eradicate the native shrimp population for their “non-native” Pacific oysters.

In 1989, a study was conducted that estimated that the annual crab kill from the use of carbaryl was between two million and four million crab! Carbaryl use continued unchecked until 1992 when DOE gave the oyster industry 10 years to phase it out and required them to perform a number of studies.

By 2002, few studies had been done and no reduction of carbaryl use had occurred. Rather than halt the use of carbaryl, DOE extended the same agreement for 10 more years! This is proof positive that DOE was complicit in this deadly practice in favor of the oyster industry. Finally in 2012 carbaryl use was put to an end and since then, the oyster industry has continued to battle for approval to use toxic chemicals to pollute our water in the name of profit.

The article quoted Sen. Dean Takko as saying “at some point you have to say, put the politics aside on policy and start doing it based on facts.”

The “politics” being played here have always been on the side of the oyster industry. The “facts” are clear. Imidicloprid is not permitted for use on or near water for a reason. It is toxic to thousands of species and specifically threatening to bees. The fact that the oyster industry has our elected officials trying to bypass the environmental permit process is ample proof of the “politics” being played.

DOE was on the side of the growers (again) in 2015 when they first approved the use of this chemical but the public outcry and the attention it brought to the facts related to how toxic imidicloprid really is was the reason that permit was cancelled/withdrawn.

It wasn’t new science that changed DOE’s mind. The science had always been there but DOE had chosen to disregard it in favor of their long time relationship with the oyster industry. DOE finally had someone looking over their shoulder related to the lack of real oversight related to carbaryl and imidicloprid.

Representative Brian Blake states “it’s fairly benign the way they use it to restore oyster beds and clam beds.” First, there is nothing “benign” about a chemical that is toxic to thousands of creatures. Secondly, the oyster industry is not only using it to “restore oyster beds.” They are using it to eradicate shrimp from “new farming areas.” Many of the areas being treated never supported native oysters (native Olympia oysters have been driven close to extinction by commercial oyster farming) but by killing off shrimp in these new areas the industry can claim even more tide flats for future profit. The growers are expanding so they can sell clams and geoduck to their international customer base. These lands are often leased from the state at a ridiculously low price.

There is a great new book on the history of pesticides abuse in the bay call “Toxic Pearl” which gives a complete history.

Do not be fooled, and do not allow your elected officials to permit the use of this poison on the bay.

Mike Coverdale is a resident of Westport.