GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Farms and orchards that continue to use three pesticides that harm salmon will have to greatly expand buffer zones around their fields so the chemicals don’t reach streams, federal biologists ruled Tuesday.

Acting under terms of a lawsuit brought by anti-pesticide groups and salmon fishermen, NOAA Fisheries Service issued findings under the Endangered Species Act that chemicals malathion, diazinon and chlorpyrifos jeopardize the survival of all 28 species of Pacific salmon listed as threatened or endangered in the West.

“These measures will help keep these organophospates out of the water,” said Josh Osborne-Klein, an attorney for Earthjustice, the public interest law firm that brought the case. “That is not only good for salmon and good for wildlife, but good for people, because these pesticides have been detected in drinking water.”

The chemicals, found by the U.S. Geological survey to contaminate rivers throughout the West, interfere with salmon’s sense of smell, making it harder to avoid predators, locate food and even find their native spawning streams and reproduce. At higher concentrations, they kill fish outright.

“It makes no sense to allow uses of pesticides that poison salmon while we are trying so hard to save them,” said Glen Spain of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, a plaintiff in the case.

Banned from many household uses, tens of millions of pounds of the chemicals are still used throughout the range of Pacific salmon on fruits, vegetables, forage crops, cotton, fence posts and livestock to control mosquitoes, flies, termites, boll weevils and other pests, according to NOAA Fisheries.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a year to implement the findings.

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