Harmed salmon net pens. (Photo: Beau Garreau)
Cooke concludes initial response plan to net open failure
Saturday, October 07, 2017, 02:10 (GMT + 9)
Cooke Aquaculture Pacific informed it has successfully concluded the initial stage of its response to the net-pen failure at its Cypress Island facility and released its plans for ongoing engagement in monitoring and mitigating any potential impacts of the incident that may arise.
“We deeply regret the failure at our Cypress Island farm over the summer, and we are taking every responsible step we can to make the situation right,” said Glenn Cooke, the firm’s CEO.
The executive pointed out that the company is committed to ensuring that any adverse consequences to the environment are identified and addressed, that compensation to the Coast Salish tribes that have aided in the recovery of escaped salmon is prompt and fair, and that the public, the region’s tribal communities, and the state agency partners can regain their trust in Cooke’s operations.
The company’s initial response has focused on removal and disposal of the damaged structure, on recovery of the escaped fish and on the protection of native salmon stocks, while working closely with the Department of Fish & Wildlife, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Ecology, and tribal governments to achieve these goals.
“Our salvage operations have been successful and are completed,” said Innes Weir, general manager of Cooke Aquaculture Pacific. “All remnants of the failed structure have been removed and the sea bed appears clean and clear of farm equipment.”
To date, Cooke has accounted for 200,927 fish, including 145,851 fish recovered from the damaged structure, and 49,892 fish recovered through the company’s fish buy-back program, with significant help from several Coast Salish tribal communities.
Cooke has made financial offers to Coast Salish tribes in excess of USD 1.5 million for their recovery assistance efforts.
Representatives of the firm stressed that there is no evidence that any of the escaped fish from the Cypress Island incident are occupying native fish habitat or depleting native fish food supplies.
According to the firm, these findings are consistent with previous inspections of escaped farmed salmon, who learn that ‘food’ comes in the form of pellets that drop from above at regular intervals, and prove to be incompetent at feeding themselves when released in the wild.
Cooke’s executives noted that multiple prior attempts by Washington state agencies to introduce Atlantic salmon into Pacific waters have failed, as have attempts by the Canadian government, which released over 8 million Atlantic salmon into Pacific waters over the course of decades, with no colonization or interbreeding occurring as a result.
In addition, despite highly publicized concerns, the escaped fish are generally not able to interbreed with native fish, said Cooke, as the escaped fish are three years of age, while sexually maturity is reached at four years of age.
Nevertheless, they said the company understands concerns from the tribal communities about long-term impacts of the escaped fish in their tribal waters, and has offered to fund a study to evaluate any potential impacts that may arise.
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