Aquaculture Company’s Woes in Washington State Continue
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recently rejected Cooke Aquaculture’s request to move 800,000 Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound net pens. WDFW cited two reasons for denying the permit.
The Atlantic salmon that would have been transported to the Puget Sound net pens tested positive for a form of the fish virus PRV (piscine orthoreovirus) that occurs at the Iceland hatchery where the company sources salmon eggs. That form of PRV is not known to occur in Puget Sound, so WDFW classifies it as “exotic” in Washington.
Cooke proposed to place fish into pens that have not been emptied for at least 30 days after the most recent harvest of adult fish, which would contradict the company’s own management plan.
This is not the first setback for Cooke with regards to salmon farming in Washington State. As previously reported on this blog, Washington State passed a bill to phase out Atlantic salmon and other non-native fish farming. Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed that bill (HR 2957 ) on March, 22, 2018. The new law prohibits the state of Washington from issuing any new permits for “activities associated with the use of marine net pens for nonnative marine finfish aquaculture…” Current leases will continue to be honored. Cooke plans to continue to operate its net pens in the state until its leases expire in 2022, reports WDFW.
A driving factor in Washington state’s actions concerning farming of Atlantic salmon has been to protect Pacific salmon that is native to the waters around the state. Efforts to ban salmon farming in Washington State began shortly after more than 240,000 Atlantic salmon escaped from a Cooke net pen in August 2017. That net pen was located near Cypress Island in Puget Sound. Shortly after the governor signed HR 2957, Sen. Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island), who sponsored the bill stated, “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.”