Judge rules Cooke Aquaculture can’t restock Atlantic salmon farm in Washington
A Superior Court judge in Thurston County, Washington, has ruled against Cooke Aquaculture, which had proposed a restocking of its Atlantic salmon net-pen farm at Cypress Island, Washington.
Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz in December terminated the farm’s license. She said that the company had violated the terms of the lease after a catastrophic collapse of the net last August, which resulted in more than 300,000 non-native Atlantic salmon escaping into Puget Sound.
Cooke had proposed restocking the farm with almost 800,000 juvenile Atlantic salmon. The company sued when the Washington State Department of Natual Resources denied the company’s request. However, Judge John Skinder denied the company’s request for a preliminary injunction while the lawsuit takes place.
“Today’s decision is a win for the people and waters of Washington,” Franz said in response to the court ruling. “I encourage Cooke to drop this baseless lawsuit and work with us to safely and quickly wind up its operations at this site.”
Last month, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed into law a bill that will phase out Atlantic salmon farming and ban new leases on Atlantic salmon farms by 2025. The bill received bipartisan support in both the Washington State House of Representatives and the Senate.
Cooke told the Seattle Times that it does not comment on pending litigation, but the company has said that all options are on the table for its farming operations in Washington, including farming other species of fish.
Cooke has also sued over the termination of its fish farming operations at a farm site in Port Angeles, Washington. The state has allowed the company to harvest its existing salmon there until 2019, at which point the company’s permission to operate at the site will be terminated.