Xerces Society to speak at public meeting for Bandon Marsh spraying

September 9, 2013


Scott Hoffman Black, Executive Director; (503) 449-3793, [email protected]
Celeste Mazzacano, Aquatic Conservation Director; (503) 490-0389, [email protected]

Xerces Society to speak at public meeting for Bandon Marsh spraying

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation will be sending a representative to this evening’s public meeting about spraying Bandon Marsh NWR for the control of nuisance mosquitos. The Society believes the spraying proposal is misguided and ineffective.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A scientist from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation will be attending the public meeting arranged by Coos County later today to join members of the Bandon community in speaking out against the mosquito control spraying proposed for the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge.

On August 26, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Project Leader Roy Lowe declared an emergency on Bandon Marsh NWR due to excessive numbers of mosquitoes, and issued a Special Use Permit (SUP) to the Coos County Public Health Department for mosquito abatement on refuge lands. This SUP allows Coos County to apply two toxic chemicals, Dibrom and MetaLarv S-PT on refuge lands. The emergency was declared even though there is no health emergency and no known or perceived health issues.

The current plan calls for spraying over 10,000 acres of marshland and forests around Bandon, including residential and recreational areas, with Dibrom, a broad-spectrum, organophosphate nerve agent that is highly toxic to humans as well as fish, birds and other wildlife.

The legality of the program is also questionable on at least two issues. First, the USFWS is not following its own regulations in declaring this “emergency.” The USFWS draft mosquito control policy states: “we will allow populations of native mosquito species to function unimpeded unless they cause a human and/or wildlife health threat” (emphasis added). As such, the USFWS is likely breaking the law by not following the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires citizen input into major land use decisions on federal public lands. Second, there should have been an “intra-agency ESA consultation” over disturbance to salmon and western snowy plover, which both have Endangered Species Act protection. Therefore, the USFWS is violating the ESA.

“By declaring an “emergency”—even though there are no health issues—the USFWS is moving forward without proper environmental review,” said Scott Hoffman Black, Executive Director of the Xerces Society and co-author of the report Ecologically Sound Mosquito Management in Wetlands. “In doing so, they are breaking several laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.”

Dibrom is intended to kill adult mosquitoes. The active ingredient is naled, an organophosphate nerve agent that is highly toxic to humans as well as to a wide range of wildlife. Toxicity aside, adulticiding against mosquitoes is widely recognized as being ineffective, especially against a species such as the salt marsh mosquito (Aedes dorsalis), which can fly 10–20 miles away from its emergence site. An endless cycle of spraying can result, as adults continue to emerge and disperse from breeding grounds that may be substantially distant from where the adults are biting.

MetaLarv S-PT is a slow-release formulation of methoprene, a compound that mimics the naturally-occurring juvenile hormone in insects. Although much less toxic to humans than Dibrom, MetaLarv is highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates including dragonfly nymphs, aquatic beetles, mayflies, non-biting midges and crustaceans from copepods to crabs, and may be linked to developmental defects in amphibians.

The plan has also not addressed the potential impact that spraying could have on shorebirds and song birds that use invertebrates as food as they migrate southward in September and October, or on the federally endangered western snowy plovers that inhabit coastal beaches year-round. Because of disruption of food webs waterfowl that migrate later in the fall could also be affected. In addition, there is apparently no consideration of how this could affect fisheries including threatened salmon species. Both organophosphates and methoprene are directly toxic to fish, and many young fish feed on the invertebrates that would be killed under this treatment plan. MetaLarv is also highly toxic to young crabs as well as other crustaceans, and can cause abnormalities in development and reproduction at sublethal doses.

“The Xerces Society is deeply concerned about the current proposal to spray Bandon Marsh NWR and surrounding area to control salt marsh mosquitoes,” said Celeste Mazzacano, Aquatic Conservation Director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and lead author of the report Ecologically Sound Mosquito Management in Wetlands. “There is apparently no effort to target mosquito-producing hotspots within the refuge and no attempt to use least-toxic chemicals. The Xerces Society calls on Coos County to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a rational, environmentally sound and effective mosquito management plan for the Bandon Marsh area.”


For more information:

Xerces Society letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (9/3/13)

Press release (9/3/13) outlining concerns with the Bandon Marsh NWR spraying plan

Letters to the Editor of the Bandon Western World newspaper express concern about the spraying proposal

Ecologically Sound Mosquito Management in Wetlands report