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Salmon farm belonging to Cooke in Puget Sound. (Photo: Cooke Aquaculture)

Cooke authorised to raise 1M more Atlantic salmon in Puget Sound despite recent escape

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Thursday, October 05, 2017, 03:10 (GMT + 9)

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has granted approval for Cooke Aquaculture to rear 1 million more Atlantic salmon in Puget Sound after one of the largest fish-farm escapes the firm has faced in history.

In August the company's Cypress Island net-pen facility near the San Juan Islands collapsed and released tens of thousands of Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound and nearby waters.

Following the net pen collapse, Governor Jay Inslee directed that no permits be issued for new aquaculture net pens while the incident was being investigated.

However, current laws and administrative rules do not give state regulators the authority to deny Cooke's permit to move healthy fish into an existing net pen.

In a prepared statement, Inslee said he had asked the company to withdraw its permit application to move 1 million juvenile Atlantic salmon from the company’s hatchery in Rochester, Thurston County, to its existing net-pen facility in Puget Sound at Clam Bay, along Rich Passage. He also expressed disappointment to know the firm decided to go ahead while thousands of salmon that had escaped have not been recovered yet.

“This ordeal created a disaster and an emergency for our tribe. We are deeply saddened that the state of Washington and this foreign corporation are willing to take a business-as-usual attitude. We should be putting our efforts at finding those fish that escaped rather than putting in 1 million more,” claimed Tim Ballew II, chairman of the Lummi Indian Business Council.

Meanwhile, in a letter to Inslee, lawyers representing Cooke Aquaculture, wrote that the permit is “not a permit for any new operation, but rather a routine permit to transfer fish from the hatchery to grow-out pens.” As such, the permit requires nothing more than proof that the fish pose no disease threat.

The company considers it did more than required, hosting inspections by state agencies of the pens at Clam Bay to document they are secure from risk of potential escape.

Cooke representatives point out that the fish being moved were hatched at the company’s facility nearly a year ago and could not be held longer; biologically, they were ready for their transition to saltwater.

Inslee also had asked if the fish could be moved elsewhere, but the company claimed the only space available was at its facility in Clam Bay.

Washington is the only state on the West Coast with open-water Atlantic salmon net-pen fish farms. The permit approval comes as tribes and state lawmakers are calling for an end to aquaculture of Atlantic salmon on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.

The Cypress Island incident remains under investigation, and efforts continue to recover the fish that escaped. About half of the 305,000 fish from the collapsed pen are thought to have escaped.

Related articles:

- Lawmakers urge agencies to mitigate escaped farmed salmon impacts
- Washington Governor temporarily cancels permits for new salmon farms
- Conservation group to sue Cooke over salmon escape
- DFO closely monitors Atlantic salmon escape in US
- Eclipse's high tides cause mass farmed Atlantic salmon escape



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