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Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary

Coastal Commission Sets July 10 Public Hearing on
“Poison Drop” in Farallones Sanctuary


Jun 24, 2019


By Richard Charter, The Ocean Foundation

The California Coastal Commission today posted notice of their upcoming public hearing on the Trump Administration’s proposed helicopter dispersal of 1.5 tons of poison bait pellets in the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary off of Marin and San Francisco this fall. The poison drop is to kill the islands’ house mice – accidentally introduced during the Gold Rush - using a slow-acting poison.

This controversial poisoning plan by the US Fish and Wildlife Service will be considered at a hearing of the Coastal Commission to be held on July 10 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in San Luis Obispo, and written public comments are now being taken by the Commission at

An aerial perspective shows the South Farallon Islands, surrounded by the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Credit: Jan Roletto, NOAA GFNMS

Abandoned by the Obama Administration in 2013 as being too risky to the Sanctuary and a threat to adjacent fragile coastal ecosystems, while also posing unnecessary danger to non-target species, the poison drop proposal here has recently been revived by federal officials, who are now pushing the Coastal Commission to find their scheme to be “consistent” with California’s Coastal Plan.

“The millions of citizens working to protect this treasured National Marine Sanctuary are counting on our Coastal Commissioners to ensure that the Wildlife Service instead comes up with a more precautionary approach than random airborne dispersal of dangerous poisons that needlessly kill and sicken harmless wildlife while becoming more concentrated throughout the predator food chain.” said Richard Charter of Bodega Bay, Senior Fellow with  The Ocean Foundation and an appointed member of NOAA’s regional advisory council that helps to guide policies for the marine sanctuary.

Ashy Storm-Petrel Wildlife Service asserts that burrowing owls from Marin pose a threat to Ashy Storm Petrels, a seabird that frequents the islands, but the same agency has also declined petitions to list the  Ashy Storm Petrel as at risk under the Endangered Species Act, noting that their population is on the increase. The Wildlife Service is now claiming that not one single poison pellet will reach the water and that killing every single one of the islands’ house mice – accidentally introduced during the Gold Rush - using a slow-acting poison, represents the only way to discourage the small number of burrowing owls (6-8) from being attracted from Marin’s coastal headlands to feed on the mice.

The poisons being proposed are the subject of increased scientific scrutiny because of non-target wildlife disasters during similar air drops on island locations elsewhere.

Ashy Storm-Petrel, Monterey Bay, © Brian L. SullivanThe State of California has outlawed retail sale of the same toxic compounds due to the unintended damage they inflict on mountain lions, bobcats, an iconic mammal called the Pacific Fisher, and in terrestrial urban interface locations, dangers to pets and children. Legislation limiting their use is now moving through the California State Legislature.

Some within the Wildlife Service admit that large numbers of gulls ingesting the poison pellets offshore during a helicopter drop this fall could return to die in mainland locations they frequent, such as at Fishermen’s Wharf. Any accidental wind- or wave-borne discharges of the poison into the ocean pose a contamination hazard to fish, crabs, and abalone.

Public comments on this marine sanctuary poisoning proposal should be promptly directed to and identified with the relevant agenda item, number W14a.

Landscape view of the Point Arena Lighthouse, which sits near the northern boundary of the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

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Jun 25, 2019
What is the main purpose of the poison drop? Kill mice imported during the Gold Rush that attracts an owl that disturbs an endangered native bird - you'll see it halfway through the article. ~ Vesta
- Ceylan Crow
Jun 26, 2019
VIA EMAIL: Your comments on this fall’s proposed helicopter dispersal of 1.5 tons of rat poison pellets in the middle of the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary are now being solicited by the California Coastal Commission. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is pushing our Coastal Commissioners to approve a proposed aerial “poison drop” as consistent with California’s Coastal Plan, so the Coastal Commission will be conducting a public hearing in San Luis Obispo on July 10, 2019 starting at 9 am at the Embassy Suites Hotel at 333 Madonna Road, to help them reach a decision. You can send in your own written comment letter with one click by visiting
- Vesta Copestakes
Jun 29, 2019
I hope that the readers will follow the opportunity to weigh in on this subject by copying the prepared letter on the link or by submitting your own written comment letter with one click by visiting”. Thank You!
- Marsha Vas Dupre, Ph.D.

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