1080 report ‘correct on the science’

This morning, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright released a report examining the use of 1080 (sodium monofluoroacetate) for pest control in the conservation estate.

The report canvasses existing scientific evidence and ultimately supports the use of the chemical as an effective measure to control rats, possums, stoats and other pests that threaten native species in New Zealand.

In an overview, the Commissioner states:

” It is my view based on careful analysis of the evidence that not only should the use of 1080 continue (including in aerial operations) to protect our forests, but that we should use more of it.

“It is seldom that I come to such a strong conclusion at the end of an investigation. But the possums, rats and stoats that have invaded our country will not leave of their own accord. Much of our identity as New Zealanders, along with the clean green brand with which we market our country to the world, is based on the ecosystems these pests are bent on destroying. We cannot allow our forests to die.”

Read the PCE’s full report. The Commissioner has also created a Frequently Asked Questions section on the PCE website.

The Science Media Centre approached scientists in the areas of wildlife management, ecology, and toxicology for their reaction to the report. Further comments will be posted on the SMC website.

Professor Dave Kelly, Terrestrial ecologist, University of Canterbury comments:

“I think the PCE’s report is correct on the science.

“In fact I have just returned from the Ornithological Society of NZ annual conference, and a number of papers there were completely consistent with the conclusion that 1080 is a vital management tool, without which a number of important native birds are doomed to rapid decline over most of the country.

“It seems to me there are three main motivations among those objecting to 1080 – fears that it is not safe, claims that it has negative effects on native animals, and concern about its impacts on game animals (particularly deer). I think the fears about its safety are simply not supported by the evidence, and the PCE’s report should help in that regard (in a logical world the report would eliminate such fears). The PCE’s report is consistent with previous reviews on the same topic.

“Claims that 1080 has negative effects on native animals are basically incorrect – the net effect of recent well-run operations is overwhelmingly positive, and as the PCE report notes, there are situations where there is no practical alternative to 1080 for protecting native wildlife.

“The issue around impacts on deer needs to be dealt with by direct discussions with hunters, but is not central to the conservation issue, given that only about one-eighth of the conservation estate currently gets comprehensive pest control (as the PCE report shows), leaving plenty of alternative areas for hunters to use.

“In any case, the PCE’s report is another welcome careful review of the facts around this key tool for conservation managers, and deserves to be widely read. I hope its key recommendations are implemented as all are soundly based.”

To read further comments from scientists on the use of 1080 or access a background briefing on research into alternatives to 1080 use, see the Science Media Centre website.