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Shellfish producer says it won't spray oysters with pesticide after public, customer pressure

SEATTLE - Washington state's largest shellfish producer says it is bowing to public pressure and will not use a pesticide recently approved to control a native burrowing shrimp that makes it hard for oysters to grow.

The state Department of Ecology approved the pesticide's use on Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor, despite concerns raised by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others about possible harm to other species.

Taylor Shellfish Farms decided not to spray its oyster beds after getting a stream of calls from customers and the public concerned about the spraying plan, company spokesman Bill Dewey said Friday.

An association of about two dozen oyster growers in southwest Washington, including Taylor, applied for and received a permit last month to collectively spray up to 2,000 acres a year with a widely-used pesticide, imidacloprid. About 200 acres of Taylor's farms would have been sprayed under that plan, Dewey said.

The company still believes the science is solid and that use of the pesticide won't harm the bay, but it is listening to its customers, Dewey said.

"People have been weighing in with their disappointment," he said. "We fully believe in the permits and the science and the research that's gone into issuing them. We think the use is solid and won't have devastating effects on the bay at all. Regardless of all of that, our customers' opinions are what matter."

Willapa Bay is the largest producer of farmed oysters in the U.S., mostly nonnative Pacific oysters.

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