To save the oyster or the salmon?

To save the oyster or the salmon?
PACIFIC COUNTY, Wash. -- The oyster industry is worth millions to Washington state.

To protect the oysters, growers use pesticides. But those same pesticides hurt salmon, according to federal biologists.

So the feds have proposed a solution which has upset oyster growers in Bay Center, where the oyster is life itself.

"It's one of the biggest economies in Pacific County. I mean, we don't have a lot down here," said Dr. Dick Wilson.

Wilson's talking about jobs. Some 1,200 people work in the state's oyster industry, a $60 million business. And in Bay Center, it is about the only job around.

The big enemies of the oyster industry are sand and mud shrimp. The shrimp burrow in the sea bed and turn it into a soft glop, causing oysters to just sink and die.

"The whole thing is a soupy mass of fine sand," said Wilson.

Another problem for oysters is a new federal proposal. To protect salmon, the National Marine Fisheries Service wants to ban several pesticides, including Sevin, the only pesticide that can kill burrowing shrimp.

But Wilson says 200 scientific papers and six environmental impact statements have found no harmful link between Sevin and salmon.

"No one really wants to use it, but we like to farm oysters," he said.

The waters in Bay Centers are pure, Wilson says, and deep down, the eel grass grows tall. He says Sevin has never been used during salmon season, and he just hopes the feds will change their mind.

Oyster growers say they'll fight the proposed regulation any way they can. They are not ready to raise a white flag.

Federal scientists will make the final decision in about a year.