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US EPA seeks to protect salmon from 4 pesticides

New measures aim to reduce spray drift and runoff into water

by Britt E. Erickson
February 2, 2023


A Chinook salmon swimming in a river.
Credit: Shutterstock
The US Environmental Protection Agency is limiting the use of four pesticides to protect endangered salmon species.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has put restrictions on four pesticides to save endangered Pacific salmon and steelhead species from extinction. The new mitigation measures, announced Feb. 1, aim to protect 28 salmon species in Washington, Oregon, and California from pesticide runoff and spray drift.

The four targeted pesticides are three herbicides—bromoxynil, prometryn, and metolachlor—and the soil fumigant 1,3-dichloropropene. The EPA put the measures in place after the National Marine Fisheries Service found in 2021 that such restrictions are needed to protect endangered and threatened salmon species.

The measures require no-spray vegetative buffers between waters where salmon live and agricultural fields. They also require retention ponds and vegetated drainage ditches. All of these measures are intended to capture pesticides that otherwise could seep into the water.

Environmental groups, which have been suing the EPA for decades to protect endangered species from pesticides, say the new restrictions are long overdue. “But there are still more than 1,000 species that don’t have any protection against these four pesticides or hundreds of others that are devastating to imperiled species,” Lori Ann Burd, environmental health program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, says in a statement. “The EPA needs to move quickly to ensure all species are protected from pesticides, before it’s too late.”

Last year, the EPA implemented similar restrictions on three organophosphate insecticides—chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion—to protect endangered and threatened salmon. The agency is still evaluating the potential effects of dozens of other pesticides on these species as part of legal settlements with environmental groups.



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