State Senate in Washington votes to ban Atlantic salmon farming

Published on
February 12, 2018

The Washington State Senate has voted by a wide margin of 35-12 to ban the farming of Atlantic salmon once existing leases for the cultivation of the non-native fish have expired. 

The legislation was endorsed by Democratic Governor Jay Inslee, who called Atlantic salmon farming “a risk that is intolerable.” 

The bill is now set to be voted on by the Washington State House, and would then go to Inslee’s desk to be signed into law if it passes.

“The risk is simply too great, it is no longer acceptable to the people of the state of Washington to expose our waters to the threat of Atlantic salmon net pens,” Inslee said. 

The legislation comes after the August collapse of a Cooke Aquaculture net-pen farming system near Cypress Island, Washington, which allowed hundreds of thousands of Atlantic salmon to escape into Puget Sound. An investigation into the collapse revealed that Cooke intentionally misled the public and state investigators after the collapse.

The bill was co-sponsored by State Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island), whose district includes the area where the Cooke pen collapse occurred. 

“Wild salmon are threatened. This is the sort of negligent behavior by this corporation that can’t go unchecked,” said Ranker, alluding to an investigation into Cooke Aquaculture that charges that improper care of the pens led to the collapse.

If the bill passes the House, Atlantic salmon fishing would be banned in the state when Cooke and other leases run out by 2025. 

The largely Republican opposition to the bill bemoaned the blow to state’s economy, though Cooke employs less than 200 Washingtonians.

Senator Keith Wagoner (R-Sedro-Woolley), railed against the bill, calling it, “a loss for a legitimate business that employs people.”

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

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