The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is sharing the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) final biological opinion for the pesticides carbaryl and methomyl. After working with EPA and registrants on mitigation measures to protect federally threatened and endangered (listed) species since the release of the draft biological opinion in March 2023, NMFS has determined that the registered uses of these pesticides will not result in jeopardy determinations. This means that they do not anticipate that these pesticides will jeopardize listed species or adversely modify critical habitats when used in accordance with label language that is reflected in the biological opinion.
Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), EPA must ensure that its actions, including many pesticide registration actions, do not jeopardize listed species or adversely modify their designated critical habitats. If EPA determines in a biological evaluation that use of a pesticide product may affect these listed species or critical habitats, EPA must initiate consultation with NMFS, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), or both (the Services). In response, the Service(s) may develop a biological opinion that determines whether the pesticide will result in jeopardy or adverse modification. The final biological opinion released today only covers species under NMFS’s purview. FWS will also complete a biological opinion for species within its purview.
Background on Carbaryl and Methomyl
Carbaryl and methomyl are insecticides used on a variety of crops, including field vegetables and orchard crops. In March 2021, EPA completed its final biological evaluations for carbaryl and methomyl, which made ″likely to adversely affect″ determinations (meaning EPA reasonably expects at least one individual animal or plant of any listed species may be exposed to these pesticides at a sufficient level to have an adverse effect) for 1,640 listed species and 736 critical habitats for carbaryl and 1,098 listed species and 736 critical habitats for methomyl. EPA initiated formal consultation with the Services upon completing these biological evaluations and, in response, NMFS developed a draft biological opinion for carbaryl and methomyl, which was posted for a 60-day public comment period in March 2023.
The draft biological opinion included NMFS’s determinations that, under the ESA, use of carbaryl and methomyl was likely to jeopardize some listed species and adversely modify their critical habitats when used as registered. The draft biological opinion contained draft measures to avoid jeopardy and adverse modification, and to minimize ″take,″ which is incidental harm of listed species.
After the draft biological opinion was issued, EPA, NMFS, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and carbaryl and methomyl registrants continued to work together to identify additional mitigation measures to reduce exposure to listed species and avoid the above-mentioned jeopardy. The final biological opinion describes these measures, including a list of mitigation options that pesticide users may choose from to reduce pesticide runoff from treated areas in certain areas that are in close proximity to listed species habitats. The measures will be implemented through amending the registrations to include changes to the labels to direct the user to EPA’s online system Bulletins Live! Two website and comply with any applicable restrictions. The registrants’ commitments to implement these measures by amending product labeling has resulted in NMFS determining that the registered uses of these pesticide will not result in jeopardy determinations in the final biological opinion.
Registrant commitments for amending their methomyl registrations include spray drift and runoff reduction measures and an annual application rate limit. Registrant commitments for amending their carbaryl registrations include spray drift and runoff reduction measures, prohibition of agricultural use in Hawaii, buffers to water bodies, general outdoor application statements for residential uses, and a reduction in maximum annual rates and number of applications for various crops (e.g., some vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, ornamentals, and turfgrass).
In addition to label changes that NMFS, EPA, and the registrants identified and agreed to prevent jeopardy, the biological opinion includes measures to minimize take of listed species and impacts to critical habitats, such as the development of ESA educational materials and the inclusion of label information about ecological incident reporting. EPA will work with registrants of carbaryl and methomyl products to implement these mitigation measures and all components of the NMFS biological opinion.
The final biological opinion can be found on the NMFS website. To see other biological opinions EPA has implemented, visit EPA's website.