Daily Archives: March 23, 2013

Eight Individuals Indicted in Paddlefish-poaching Investigation

A multi-year investigation for paddlefish poachers spans nine states, including Kansas

Agents with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently conducted a multi-year, undercover investigation that resulted in more than 100 suspects spanning nine states. The investigation, which ran during the spring 2011 and spring 2012 Missouri paddlefish seasons, also included the indictment of eight individuals for federal crimes involving the illegal trafficking of paddlefish and their eggs for use as caviar.

“The national and international popularity of Missouri paddlefish eggs as a source of caviar has grown dramatically in recent years,” said MDC protection chief Larry Yamnitz. “This is a result of European sources of caviar having declined from overfishing of the Caspian Sea’s once plentiful and lucrative beluga sturgeon, another species of fish known for its caviar.”

The MDC states that the section of the Osage River running along Warsaw in BentonCounty is a paddlefish hot spot because it is blocked upstream by Truman Dam. When spawning paddlefish reach the dam, their route is blocked, increasing both their numbers as well as anglers’ chances of snagging them. This concentration of paddlefish, which is inevitably filled with egg-laden females, also makes Warsaw a prime location for poachers looking to obtain the fish eggs for sale in illegal caviar markets. Paddlefish may only be snagged during the snagging season, March 15-April 30. It is illegal to sell the eggs.

According to MDC, about 20 pounds of eggs or more can be harvested from a large female paddlefish. Retail prices for paddlefish caviar vary, but current common retail price is about $35 per ounce.

“A common black-market price is about $13 an ounce,” Yamnitz said. “A single large female paddlefish with about 20 pounds of eggs is carrying about $4,000 worth of potential caviar for black market sales.”

On March 13 and 14, 85 conservation agents from MDC, 40 special agents from USWFS, and wildlife officers from other states issued citations, executed arrest warrants, conducted interviews and gathered additional information regarding the investigation. Other states involved were ColoradoIllinoisKansasMinnesotaNew JerseyOregonPennsylvania, and South Carolina.

For more information, visit http://mdc.mo.gov/node/21437.

KDWPT Video Features Walleye Production Process

Video takes viewers along on walleye egg-taking journey

“Walleye For Tomorrow,” a 15-minute video produced by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT), shows each step in the process of producing walleye forKansas lakes. Populations of this popular sport fish in Kansas lakes depend on the artificial spawning program that produces millions of walleye for stocking each spring.

The full-length video, which has only recently been digitized and posted for viewing on KDWPT’s website, is a must-watch for any dedicated Kansas walleye angler.

The video can be seen at http://ksoutdoors.com/Walleye-for-tomorrow.

Products associated with bee deaths lethal to birds & wildlife

Jason Plautz

E&E reporter

A widely used class of pesticides linked to widespread bee deaths also poses a health threat to birds, aquatic creatures and other wildlife, according to a report out March 19.

Public health advocates and environmentalists have long targeted neonicotinoids, saying they are at least partially responsible for the deaths of roughly one-third of the country’s bees each year since 2006. But the new report, commissioned by the American Bird Conservancy, says the insecticides are also lethal to birds and could affect entire ecosystems, including aquatic systems.

In light of the findings, the ABC is calling on U.S. EPA to ban the use of neonicotinoids in seed treatments and suspend their application until an independent review can be completed.

“It is clear that these chemicals have the potential to affect entire food chains,” said report co-author Cynthia Palmer, pesticides program manager for ABC. “The environmental persistence of the neonicotinoids, their propensity for runoff and for groundwater infiltration, and their cumulative and largely irreversible mode of action in invertebrates raise significant environmental concerns.”

A previous request to ban clothianidin, a neonicotinoid pesticide, was rejected by EPA in July (Greenwire, July 25, 2012). And earlier this month, a vote to ban the pesticides by the European Union failed.

The report, written by environmental toxicologist Pierre Mineau, reviewed more than 200 existing studies, including industry research. The evidence, Mineau said, showed that neonicotinoids can prove more toxic to birds in lower doses than the pesticides they were designed to replace.

A single corn kernel coated with one of the pesticides would be enough to kill a songbird, the report warned, and smaller doses were associated with reproductive and neurological problems.

EPA, said Mineau, has underestimated the toxicity of the chemicals in birds by a factor of anywhere from 1.5 to 10 times depending on the specific insecticide and bird species. The agency also ought to do more to pressure registrants to help diagnose affected populations, he said.

“It is astonishing that EPA would allow a pesticide to be used in hundreds of products without ever requiring the registrant to develop the tools needed to diagnose poisoned wildlife,” Mineau said.

The report also found contamination levels in surface- and ground-level water systems that were already above the threshold associated with death in aquatic invertebrates. Levels were high enough in areas like California and the Canadian prairies to suggest there could be an impact on the entire aquatic food chain, eventually reaching populations like birds and amphibians.

That, said Mineau, should add more backing to the push to take neonicotinoids out of use, at least until more research is done.

“We’re not saying these impacts are more important than bees, but this is an added piece of the puzzle,” Mineau said at a news conference today.

In a statement, CropLife America, an agribusiness group, said that while “it is critical to protect bird population levels and support biodiversity,” the link between insecticides and any decline in bird populations is “unfounded.”

“CLA is disappointed that the report, which has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, paints a flawed picture of the Environmental Protection Agency’s risk assessment of crop protection products, industry stewardship and agriculture as a whole,” said Mike Leggett, senior director of environmental policy for CropLife America.

“Our industry continues to conduct studies directed at ensuring that the crop protection products available to farmers can be used safely and will effectively help growers provide nutritious food for communities around the world,” Leggett said.

Neonicotinoids were developed in the 1990s to replace harmful organophosphate pesticides and are now widely used on crops including corn and soy and in some home-gardening products.

Public health advocates say there’s now evidence that the pesticides were rushed to market without proper assessment and are calling for them to be restricted. The bee die-offs have captured headlines, since up to one-third of the U.S. diet depends on insect pollinators.

The Department of Agriculture has conducted several studies on the bee deaths and has said there is no single cause, including pesticides (Greenwire, April 24, 2012). EPA has said it will complete a review the safety of neonicotinoids for honeybees in 2018.

But speaking this morning, Peter Jenkins of the Center for Food Safety said that was “clearly not enough” and called on Congress to “hold EPA’s feet to the fire” by threatening to suspend the use of the product or amend the farm bill to restrict its use. Jenkins also said that EPA should also be pressured to speed up its safety reviews and that its review process for chemicals should be reformed.

Click here to read the report.