By Lisa Owens Viani
Steelhead and salmon use their highly developed sense of smell to know when to mate, pick up on signals from other fish that help them avoid predators, and find the streams in which they return to spawn. But runoff from pesticides such as carbaryl, diazinon, and malathion, to name just a few, even in low doses, can impair their olfactory nerves; higher doses can cause death.
In 2004, to try to stop runoff and death in salmonid-bearing streams, the Washington Toxics Coalition and Earthjustice filed suit—twice—against the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The result was a court ruling that prohibits agricultural users from aerial spraying of thirtysome pesticides within a hundred yards of salmonid-bearing streams and on-the-ground use within twenty yards. It also requires retail stores in urban areas—with populations of over 50,000 in Washington, Oregon, and California—to post warnings that seven pesticides are a “salmon hazard.” The seven bad boys are 2,4-D, carbaryl (in Sevin dust and granules), diazinon (Knox Out, Gardentox, Spectracide, and others), diuron, malathion (Celthion and Maltox), triclopyr BEE, and trifluralin.
Have you seen warning signs in your local big box or hardware store? As so often happens, regulation doesn’t always lead to implementation, and the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center’s (OAEC) Brock Dolman wants to step up the signage. OAEC’s Water Institute has developed a campaign in Sonoma County to educate storeowners about the effects of pesticides on salmon and to ask them to advertise in-store alternatives. Says Dolman, “After that second court ruling we started looking around here; there were no signs. We figured OK, the EPA has been slapped twice, now how else can we help at a local level to implement this program? Let’s do our own follow-up.”