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   Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

Apple moth spraying proceeds with little notice to public

October 2007

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recently completed its first round of night-time aerial spraying over a large area of Monterey County including Marina, Seaside, Monterey, Pacific Grove, and parts of Pebble Beach. The purpose is to eradicate the Light Brown Apple Moth, an invasive, non-native species from Australia. The chemical sprayed is a synthetic pheromone (Checkmate OLR-F and Checkmate LBAM-F) which disrupts the breeding cycle of the moth by impairing the male moth's ability to find a mate.

Poor communication and a rush into action by Food and Ag has generated a firestorm of controversy. The public was not notified before the decision was made to spray. A mailing was sent shortly before the spraying notifying the public of the dates and giving information about the product and the dates of two informational open house sessions. The Ventana Chapter believes, at minimum, the public meetings, giving facts and answering questions, should have included an extended public comment period, prior to scheduling the spraying.

The format of the sessions was inadequate, and an additional presentation was organized by the city of Monterey, attended by over 250 people, most opposed to the spraying. The residents expressed genuine fear for their families and pets. The city of Monterey, Assembly member Laird, and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary called for a delay. Secretary of Agriculture A.G. Kawamura delayed for several days and then proceeded with the spraying on September 9.

Although pheromones are accepted and used by certified organic farmers, aerial spraying of these particular ones has not been done before in an urban setting. Many people had questions regarding the effect on public health. CDFA claimed that distribution of pheromone dispensers in trees, as an alternative to spraying, would be too costly and would take months because of the large area of infestation.

The Chapter believes there are still many unanswered questions. Why is there a warning regarding aquatic invertebrates if the pheromone breaks down rapidly and is insoluble in water? Why does CDFA recommend keeping it out of bodies of water? After the National Marine Sanctuary complained, the flight area was pulled back from the coastline.

Is this a real emergency as CDFA claims? Some experts say that this apple moth has been here for years without major damage and an eradication attempt is likely to fail.

CDFA plans are now being formulated to spray in Santa Cruz County.

Repeat spraying every 30 days may follow the initial spraying in both Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties. The Ventana Chapter recommends that members contact Assembly member John Laird and insist that a third party review be conducted of this action and that all questions are answered before the spraying is allowed to continue.

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