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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

April, 2006

 

Increasing Levels of House-hold Pesticides Detected in Creeks Endanger the Future of Marin's Salmon Runs
By Paola Bouley

Pesticides (insecticides, herbicides fungicides) are toxic by design. Despite their known ill-effects on human and ecosystem health they are widely applied, and now a USGS study has shown that common, house-hold pesticides (including DDT which was phased out decades ago) are frequently detected in urban streams and ground water occurring at concentrations known to have significant negative effects on aquatic webs of life. While pesticides can outright kill salmon and other aquatic life, sub-lethal concentrations can pose severe risks to salmon by altering physiological and neurological processes that control swimming behavior, predator-avoidance, and reproductive behavior. Additionally, these toxins can eliminate critical invertebrate food resources that salmon depend on for survival during their early years of life spent living in the creeks that flow through our backyards.
Salmon live in watersheds, not just in streams. They are "indicator species," meaning the health and well-being of their increasingly fragile populations are intricately dependent on the health and well-being of their surrounding watersheds (from ridge-line to creekbed). Impacts from human development are increasingly threatening the viability of populations, especially in Marin County. For example, the Lagunitas Watershed in West Marin County is home to one of California's largest remaining run of wild coho (or approx. 10% of the State's total population). While the Watershed appears relatively pristine with large tracts of land protected within State and National Park boundaries, typically 50+ % of the coho population spawns in the San Geronimo Valley, the increasingly urbanized region of the Watershed. For the sake of the health of both human and salmon populations it is critical that Marin County residents become enlightened to the serious risks pesticides pose and take the lead in eliminating these harmful chemicals from our toolbox for dealing with a myriad of nuisances, from sudden oak-death to West Nile Virus. Pesticide-use is simply not consistent with the protection and restoration of endangered species.


The Goods News!
In 2005 a Federal Court scored a victory for salmon by upholding a ban on the use of 54 pesticides near salmonid-bearing creeks (see www.SpawnUSA.org for more info and a detailed list of these chemicals). Additionally, the ruling required urban home and garden centers to warn customers if a product contains pesticides that are harmful to salmon or steelhead.


The Bad News!
A recent survey of Marin hardware, home and garden centers, and records for commercial applications in the County reveals a disturbing fact: Pesticides on the "banned list" for use near salmonid-bearing streams are being used and are sold over the counter with no warning to consumers about their lethal effects on the endangered salmon that run through our backyards. These include, among other products, malathion, diazinon, chlorothalonil, and triclopyr BEE. For a complete list of these chemicals and to obtain warning labels to put up at your local home and garden center please visit the Salmon Protection and Watershed' Network's (SPAWN) website at www.SpawnUSA.org, or call 415-488-0370.

Help keep Marin's streams healthy for salmon and for people!

Eliminate the use of pesticides in and around your home. Implement sustainable, non-toxic pest-management practices.

Dispose of pesticides, and old pesticide containers, safely (Locate a Hazardous Waste facility near you, call 415-485-6805).

At your local hardware or garden center request that warning labels be posted in a visible location, and that efforts be made to remove these chemicals from the shelves permanently.



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