The April edition of Estuary magazine, a publication of the CalFed program and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, has some coverage of the “Moth Mess” as they call it. (CalFed is a joint California/Federal agency that conducts scientific research and makes decisions related to water use in the Sacramento River Delta — what’s causing the decline of the Delta Smelt, how much water do the salmon need, that sort of thing). For those of you who have been living in caves for the past few months, the issue is that the “Light Brown Apple Moth,” an Australian species, has established a foothold in California. The moth is potentially a major agricultural pest, and could also be a threat to some plants that are important to natural ecosystems, and California wants to do aerial spraying of pheromones over the entire state to disrupt the moth’s mating in an attempt to totally eradicate it before it becomes fully established. Some Bay Area cities have sued to prevent this.
The Estuary article says that (1) analysis shows that bird kills on Monterey Bay were not, as some people have claimed, due to the “checkmate” pheromone spray; (2) an oft-quoted report by UC Santa Cruz’s Daniel Harder, that says that the moth is not a major pest in New Zealand, has been criticized by New Zealand researchers who “issued a stinging rebuke to his paper’s conclusion”; and (3) the California Department of Food and Agriculture is claiming success in eliminating the moth from some areas in Southern California through use of the pheromone spray.
[UPDATE: Thursday, April 24: “Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Paul Burdick ruled Thursday morning that aerial spraying to control the light brown apple moth could not continue in Santa Cruz County” pending an environmental review, which the state is trying to avoid on the grounds of an “agricultural emergency.” The Santa Cruz Sentinel has an article about this, thanks to a blog commenter for passing this along.]
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