Cooke spat over salmon escape escalates after spurned compensation offer

Cooke Aquaculture, the company that owns the fish nets near Cypress Island, Washington, from which an estimated 105,000 Atlantic salmon escaped from faulty netting in August, offered last month to pay the Lummi Nation, a local Native American tribe, a premium for the escaped non-native fish that they caught, in exchange for the tribe not speaking out against net pen aquaculture. 

Tomothy Ballew II, chairman of the Lummi Business Council responded in a letter to the aquaculture company that the tribe would not be agreeing to the offer, according to the Seattle Times.

“Your demand to keep quiet for a few extra dollars is insulting,” he wrote in a letter last month. 

Cooke Vice President for Communications Nell Halse said yesterday that the company’s offer to the tribe “was not an attempt to muzzle or insult the Lummi Nation, but rather an effort to negotiate toward common ground and respect the interests and concerns of both parties at the table.”

Initially, Cooke offered to pay the Lummi Nation USD 30.00 (EUR 25.28) for each fish it recovered, but the tribe responded that it would not allow them to recoup the  full cost of their fisherman working to bring in the fish. Cooke told the tribe that it would pay them more, but according to letters exchanged between the two parties, there were conditions attached.

Glenn Cooke, the company’s co-founder and CEO, wrote that the company would agree to pay USD 42 (EUR 35.38) for every fish, “subject to agreement between the parties that neither party would use the facts surrounding this escape to advocate for a phase out or ban of net pen aquaculture until…academic research…is completed.”

Because the two sides could not come to an agreement, Cooke paid the initial offer of USD 30 per salmon, which totaled USD 1.3 million (EUR 1.1 million). It also offered to fund a study “to evaluate impacts that may arise from the escape of fish into [Lummi Nation] tribal waters.” 


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