Cooke plan to add a million Atlantic salmon to Washington farm draws outrage

Cooke Aquaculture plans to send a million Atlantic salmon to a farm near Bainbridge Island, Washington, drawing the ire of environmentalists and members of the Lummi Nation who have questioned the company’s competence after one of its fish pens in Puget Sound collapsed in August, resulting in one of the largest fish escapes in the industry’s history.

The decision to allow the move of the fish, which are a non-native species in Washington, was recently approved by the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife. However, on Tuesday, 3 October, Washington Governor Jay Inslee asked Cooke to withdraw the proposal to move the million new hatchlings to the waters of the Puget Sound.

While the August incident is being investigated, Inslee has placed a temporary ban on the creation of any new fish pens. But lawyers for Cooke, in a letter to the governor, said that the permit is “not a permit for any new operation, but rather a routine permit to transfer fish from the hatchery to grow-out pens.” Additionally, the lawyers wrote that the transfer had to happen immediately because biologically, the fish were ready for their transfer to salt water and could not survive in fresh water any longer.

More than 100,000 of the Atlantic salmon that escaped into Puget Sound in August are still unaccounted for and have been found as far north as the Fraser River in British Columbia, Canada. Washington is the only West Coast state that allows Atlantic salmon net-pen fish farming operations.

Tim Ballew II, chairman of the Lummi Indian Business Council, said he opposed Cooke’s efforts to move any additional Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound.

“[The fish escape] created a disaster and an emergency for our tribe,” Tim Ballew II, chairman of the Lummi Indian Business Council said. “We are deeply saddened that the state of Washington and this foreign corporation are willing to take a business-as-usual attitude. We should be putting our efforts at finding those fish that escaped rather than putting in one million more.”


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