WA Politicians Waffle on Sea Cage Ban


State group pushes alternative to net pen ban that would affect Cooke

Feb. 26, 2018

The Washington Fish Growers Association (WFGA), a trade association that reports to represent all sectors of the finfish aquaculture industry in the US state, is asking lawmakers to accept a compromise rather than ban the use of net pens in coastal waters.

A key legislative deadline for Senate Bill 6086, which would ban the farming of Atlantic salmon in state waters, was missed last week by the state's House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee, effectively killing the bill, explains a press release from WGFA.

That opened the door for a compromise solution offered by state representative Brian Blake, a Democrat. It would require all farmed Atlantic salmon in the state to be single sex after the current aquatic leases expired. A similar bill is being offered in the other chamber by senator Judy Warnick, a Republican.

Cooke Aquaculture Pacific, the only salmon farmer in the state and a unit of Canada's Cooke Aquaculture, has expressed its support for the compromise bill that would require it to only farm female fish, incapable of breeding in the wild in case of an escape.

The failure of one of the company's net pens in August 2017 and the ensuing escape of thousands of Atlantic salmon into the Pacific caused widespread opposition to the company's farming. This intensified after the publication of a state report blaming the pen's collapse on Cooke's failure to remove mussels and other debris that had grown on the nets.

The bills come as Hilary Franz, the commissioner of public lands for Washington State’s Department of Natural Resources, took further action against Cooke, after announcing the second cancelation of a lease operated by the company in the past few months.

Cooke “flagrantly violated the terms of its lease at Cypress Island by failing to maintain their net pens in safe conditions, allowing hundreds of thousands of Atlantic salmon to pollute Washington's waters”, wrote Franz, in a Facebook post.