LONG BEACH, Wash. (AP) — A southwest Washington oyster growers association has abandoned a drive to use a controversial insecticide that combats burrowing shrimp, a creature that can make tidelands unfit for shellfish farming.
The Seattle Times reports that in a settlement reached last week, the Willapa Grays Harbor Growers Association agreed to accept a 2018 state Ecology Department denial of the proposed use of imidacloprid and drop an appeal to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board.
The growers wanted to use the insecticide to spray up to 500 annually of the more than 12,000 acres of tidelands used for shellfish cultivation in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. Without the spray, the growers say they lose productive tidelands to the shrimp, which churn up sediment and can cause oysters, as well as clams, to suffocate in the muck.
The proposed imidacloprid spraying was opposed by National Marine Fisheries Service because of risks to other marine life, and it triggered a public backlash led by some high-profile Seattle chefs.
The settlement, however, could set the stage for another type of insecticide attack on the shrimp. That's because it calls for development of an alternative control plan to include chemical, as well as other approaches, according to a 15-page settlement document filed last week with the state.
Though the settlement says chemical use should be minimized, it also lays out a timetable of 2020 field trials of any alternative insecticides that appear feasible to kill the burrowing shrimp, and a joint effort by Ecology and the growers to secure $650,000 from the Legislature to fund a broader research effort.
"This is one of the hopes of the settlement, that we can find these alternatives. Currently, nothing has been identified," said David Beugli, project coordinator for the Willapa Grays Harbor association, which signed the agreement.