Washington Governor Jay Inslee on Thursday, 22 March, signed a bill into law that will phase out Atlantic salmon and other non-native fish farming by 2025.
Canada’s Cooke Aquaculture, the only company that farms Atlantic salmon fish farms in Washington state, was the target of the ban after more than a quarter-million non-native salmon escaped in August 2017 from a Cooke net-pen near Cypress Island, Washington.
"This bill will phase out non-native marine net pens in Puget Sound. These present a risk to our wild salmon runs that we cannot tolerate," the governor said.
Inslee also vetoed a section of the bill that requesting that the issue of fish farming be revisited if new science for the industry is developed.
“The economic, cultural, and recreational resources of these incredible waters will no longer be jeopardized by the negligent actions of this industry,” Sen. Kevin Ranker, who sponsored the bill in the Washington State Senate, said. “We’ve invested so much in trying to recover our wild Pacific salmon populations, there is no sensible purpose for allowing non-native species into the Salish Sea. The day-to-day impact of invasive aquaculture – feces, disease, loose food pellets or lice – could have serious impacts. The state ban is a strong stance to ensure the protection of our marine environment and native salmon populations in the Salish Sea.”
In response to the bill being signed into law, Cooke Aquaculture spokesman Joel Richardson said the company was considering its next steps.
“While our company and our rural sea farming employees are deeply disappointed by the Governor’s decision to ignore the science and sign the bill, we will certainly respect the wishes of the Legislature. Our employees remain our top priority, and Cooke Aquaculture Pacific will continue to take the time we need to fully evaluate our operations and investments in Washington and explore all our available options, he said. “We will also continue to work with tribal, state and community partners.”