A poisoned plan to protect birds


We are fortunate to have our coast and our fishing industry here protected by a National Marine Sanctuary, three State Marine Protected Areas and even a United Nations International Biosphere Reserve, making our world-class waters the one of the most carefully managed ocean habitats on the planet. .

Amid these scientific protections, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to rush a misguided proposal to use helicopters to spread a deadly anticoagulant poison that is currently under a moratorium preventing its use in California because it Slowly kill everything alive except insects. . The stated aim of the proposal is to attempt to kill mice unintentionally introduced to the Farallones in the mid-1800s by Russian seal hunters.

These stray mice attract about eight small Marin County burrowing owls each fall. The owls come to eat the mice and sometimes stay to nibble on a small sea bird called the ash-storm petrel. The Fish and Wildlife Service says the only way to stop these owls from coming to the island would be to use toxic chemicals to kill every mouse, but the same poison failed to eradicate the mice completely 38% time when it has been tried elsewhere.

The White House doesn’t even have a confirmed director of the Fish and Wildlife Service in place in Washington yet. Meanwhile, every coastal commissioner in California has vowed to protect environmentally sensitive habitats like the Farallones.

In a virtual hearing Thursday, the Coast Commission will vote on whether it should allow the dumping of 1.5 tonnes of deadly grain bait containing a potent poison on the Farallon Islands. You can pre-register to speak by phone or computer by visiting http://tinyurl.com/islandspeaker and clicking on item 11b.

When the same project was attempted at Wake Island in the mid-Pacific, Air Force scientists recommended a 942-day fishing ban, and after failing to kill all of the targeted rats, it was discovered that the poison was still in the fish three years after using it.

This situation presents an unnecessary confrontation between federal agencies, especially the Home Office and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Coastal Commission’s protection mandate, and Governor Gavin Newsom, who just signed a law this year establishing a state moratorium banning the use of the same chemical. And all of these levels of government are now touting “nature-based solutions” to tackle environmental challenges.

It’s important to remember that all current ocean protections, as well as the Coast Commission itself, are the product of ordinary citizens who care about the coast coming forward and leading the elected. This is exactly what is needed again right now.

There are safer ways to control a few small burrowing owls and some common house mice that have been around for at least a hundred years. Globally, rodenticide industry research laboratories have developed effective fertility control baits and have successfully generalized these safer baits for rats. These laboratories are now reformulating these same contraceptive products to target mice. The eight burrowing owls that visit Farallones in the fall could be humanely trapped with mist nets and safely moved to available habitat in the South Bay or elsewhere.

Richard Charter is a senior fellow at the Ocean Foundation. He lives in Bodega Bay.

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