A bill that would phase out existing Atlantic salmon aquaculture in the state of Washington by 2025 and would also ban new leases, was approved by the Washington State House of Representatives and is expected to be signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee.
The bill, which was approved by the Washington State Senate by a 35-12 vote earlier in February, was introduced in the aftermath of the escape of over a quarter-million Atlantic salmon from a Cooke Aquaculture facility near Cypress Island, Washington.
The vote in the House of Representatives was 67-31. While most Democrats voted in favor of the bill, some Republicans were adamant that the ban was the wrong road to take.
“[If] you have an accident on a farm, we don’t try to eliminate that industry, but in this case, we are,” said Republican Representative David Taylor.
On the other hand, Republican Representative J.T. Wilcox said that the risk of more damage being done to native Pacific salmon was too great to ignore.
“My sympathies are with the people that depend on these fish runs who are unwilling to take the risk, and I don’t blame them,” he said. Wilcox also extended his sympathies to the employees of Cooke and other aquaculture firms that the bill would affect, and said that he had never felt worse after a vote.
In response to the vote, Cooke issued a press release calling on lawmakers to reconsider the ban, and to think of the 80 Cooke employees in the state of Washington. In addition, Cooke said it would use mandatory arbitration under NAFTA to try and keep the farms from being closed.
"The Senate and the House is really leaving us with very few options to continue our operations here," Cooke Vice President Joel Richardson said.