Cooke to pay fine for exceeding mass biomass at Maine salmon farms, not conducting environmental testing

Published on
October 23, 2019

Black Harbour, New Brunswick, Canada-based fish farming company Cooke Aquaculture will pay a fine of USD 156,213 (EUR 140,000) as part of a consent agreement with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection following multiple violations at fish farming sites Cooke operates in the U.S. state.

Cooke was cited by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for a number of incidents at its net pen sites in Hancock and Washington counties, including having too many fish in pens, failing to conduct environmental sampling, and failing to follow a number of procedural measures laid out in the company’s operating permit, including on-time filing of pollution sampling reports and fish spill prevention plans.

The fine will be directed to the Marine Rearing Atlantic Salmon Machias River Project. Cooke’s partnership on the Machias Project, which works to restore the native Atlantic salmon fishery to the Machias River in northeastern Maine, will begin in 2021. Some 900 fish will be raised in net pens and then sent to the Machias River when they mature.

“It is important to us that this settlement fund is directed to wild salmon restoration and experimentation in Washington County,” Downeast Salmon Federation spokesperson Dwayne Shaw said. “It is clear that Cooke has work to do in addressing their compliance with the rules governing aquaculture and we are encouraged to see [the] Maine Department of Environmental Protection and Maine Department of Marine Resources monitoring and enforcing the rules that we fought so hard to have put in place.”

“I believe this is a good solution,” Shaw continued. “And, ultimately, of course, the aquaculture industry needs to stay in compliance with the law.”

In addition to the financial penalty, Cooke will be required to train its staff on how to collect samples for environmental purposes and properly document operations.

“The administrative consent agreement was created to determine a path forward and to start anew - wipe the slate clean,” Cooke spokesman Joel Richardson said.

In a follow-up email in October, Richardson said the administrative consent agreement had been revised by the state of Maine after the initial notice was given out.

"These infractions are administrative/procedural in nature and companies across various types of industries go through [administrative consent agreements] to improve administrative procedures by working with the state in this manner," he wrote. "These violations of the permit are mainly timing and clerical issues and are resolved as part of our continuous improvement program. This agreement was written with much communication between our operations in Maine and the Maine DEP and has just recently been finalized. Cooke Aquaculture USA Inc. remains in compliance with our MEPDES permit."

Photo courtesy of Cliff White/SeafoodSource

Reporting from Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

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