Washington: Open-Ocean Salmon Pens Banned After Escape Last Year
| March 8, 2018

A year ago, Cooke Aquaculture was a mainstay business in Washington state waters. The company had made a significant investment in nine local salmon farming sites when it purchased Icicle Seafood’s assets in 2016. As of Friday, March 2, the company’s open-ocean Atlantic salmon net pens are banned in state waters, to be phased out by 2025.

The impetus for the ban is the catastrophic failure of a pen near Cypress Island, Wash., on Sunday, Aug. 20. The pen contained 305,000 Atlantic salmon that were just about ready for market at 10 pounds each, making for more than 3 million pounds of invasive fish teeming at the edges of wild salmon territory.

In February, both houses of the state Legislature passed bills banning the practice of salmon pen farming, and Gov. Jay Inslee openly supported the legislation. On Friday, the Washington house and senate negotiated the discrepancies in those bills to finalize a ban they could pass to the governor’s desk. The bipartisan Senate vote was 31-16.

Before the final votes, Cooke Aquaculture CEO and Founder Glen Cooke made last-minute appeals to state lawmakers in person.  Last Wednesday, a collective of leading marine scientists penned an open letter to the Legislature in defense of the salmon farming industry.

Indeed, many stakeholders see the ban as a punitive response to a company that appeared to shirk its own responsibility in the immediate aftermath of the spill. However, the result is that it closes the opportunity entirely — not just to Cooke Aquaculture.

Though the response to ban an entire industry may seem extreme, the perfect storm of events leading up to the ban created extraordinary circumstances. Local response to the spill was considerably more swift and strong than the eclipse high tides on which the company first blamed the collapse.

Read the full story at the National Fisherman


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