Here we go again. Oyster farmers have decided to risk public outrage and possible boycott on all shellfish by feeling a need to spray these poisons. The public seems to feel (and the industry markets itself) that oysters come out of the ocean or Sound, are in a “natural” state and as such aren’t tainted by human poisons. Last year’s public call by restaurants to boycott all shellfish seem to be lost on the industry out in Willapa Bay. It appears another boycott is called for. They have to find another way, or clearly label their products. Perhaps if shrimp are destroying the beds and no other option is available, then they need to end the growing of oysters there. But it seems that with all the spraying over multiple years, that if they cannot control it, they have lost the game. Maybe an option would be to have label for oysters that signifies a non sprayed product, like an organic label. The question that this raises is “what is a sustainable industry, and at what price?” To be poisoning an entire ecosystem on behalf of a small group of shellfish growers, seems to be an unfair trade off for the public at large. It appears to be a violation of the public trust, in both senses of that phrase. This Bay, with it’s vast ecological framework, is a public trust for this and future generations,and it could be argued in court that by continuing to use a systemic chemical that appears to not work over the long term, that the oystermen and the WSDoE is putting this ecosystem at risk.
Oyster farmers in Willapa Bay are asking the Washington State Department of Ecology for permission, again, to use a neurotoxic chemical to get rid of native shrimp. Large numbers of the burrowing shrimp are turning the tide flats into quicksand, making the land unusable for growing oysters. The chemical, imidacloprid, would paralyze the shrimp. They would suffocate and die. Jennifer Wing reports. (KPLU)
My friend Joe Breskin, commented on this issue the other day on Google+.
What they did not want the public to know was that the mudflats where the non-native Pacific Oysters are grown have been getting sprayed with this stuff since 1963, and that the stuff – delivered from helicopters as a wettable powder – drifts great distances and poisons its way up and down the entire food-web, killing or damaging everything with a nervous system from the surface of the water to over 3′ down (where the native shrimp live) – from sand fleas to salmon – as well as birds and bees, and although the growers describe spraying “empty” oyster beds in sequence, like a crop rotation, the stuff is aerial sprayed on mudflats at low tide and drifts significant distances, affecting everything alive, and since 1984 Carbaryl had been sprayed directly across active oyster beds. Drift covers thousands of additional acres, carried by the tides beyond the target areas, and in its wake dying creatures struggle to the surface to die, where they are picked up and carried off by gulls and crows as well as the smaller shorebirds: dowitchers, dunlins, plovers, turnstones. and whimbrels.