Northwest Aquaculture Alliance campaigns against Washington net-pen ban

Washington salmon net pens.

The Northwest Aquaculture Alliance (NWAA) has initiated a concerted campaign to battle the U.S. state of Washignton's commercial finfish net-pen aquaculture ban.

The ban, issued November 2022, was made via an executive order issued by Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. In previous comments, NWAA called that decision “unscientific."

Now, the NWAA is pursuing a repeal of the ban, centering its campaign on the “pain” communities and the families of aquaculture workers have faced after the implementation of the ban.

“Franz’s blatantly political action last November not only forced fish farmers out of work, but also ended the availability of affordable, nutritious, sustainable, and locally farmed fish for Washington consumers,” NWAA Executive Director Jeanne McKnight said in a release.

The NWAA is calling on Washington residents to write a letter to state legislators asking them to examine Franz’s actions. 

“This unscientific ban on commercial net pens shows that Hilary Franz is playing politics with your dinner plate – at the expense of hard-working, dedicated people who have made the production of nutritious seafood their life-long career,” McKnight said. “It’s outrageous that Franz ignored multiple peer-reviewed scientific studies proving the ecological safety of farming fish and completely disregarded a unanimous [state] Supreme Court decision affirming the legality of farming native steelhead in our state waters.”

McKnight said the way the executive order was announced and distributed was unfair, saying fish-farm workers in the state ended up learning about the ban – and the effective loss of their jobs – via the media. 

“This is unconscionable. This is not the kind of transparent leadership we should expect from our elected public servants,” McKnight said.

NWAA said farmers “consider it shameful” Franze allegedly refused to meet with aquaculture workers as she “tried to score political points with activist groups.” 

“She refused to meet with the employees who attended her press conference and had asked to speak with her,” the NWAA said. "Instead, she sent a political fundraising appeal within hours, bragging about what she had just done.”

In the executive order, Franz cited negative impacts to native salmon caused by commercial-scale net-pen salmon farming, an issue of debate along the Pacific coast of North America as regulatory bodies have clash with salmon-farming companies and industry supporters in the U.S. and Canada. A similar net-pen ban was recently upheld in British Columbia's Discovery Islands after Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans denied the renewal of licenses for 15 Atlantic salmon farms.

A DFO recent study found there were minimal connections between aquaculture net-pens and the proliferation of sea lice in Atlantic salmon, but the study has been criticized as inaccurate by some scientists.  

Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Natural Resources


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