Washington State Bans Net Pen Aquaculture

salmon brandon enPHTN3OPRw unsplash Washington State Bans Net Pen Aquaculture

Photo by Brandon on Unsplash

Washington State Bans Net Pen Aquaculture

Wild salmon runs in the PNW have been negatively affected by waterborne pathogens associated with commercial net pen salmon farming in the ocean. Washington state is the latest jurisdiction to ban the dangerous industry.

salmon brandon enPHTN3OPRw unsplash Washington State Bans Net Pen Aquaculture
Wild salmon rejoice. Image: Brandon on Unsplash

Earlier this month, Washington State issued an executive order banning commercial net pen aquaculture in state waters. The decision came after Cooke Aquaculture’s net pen facility near Cypress Island collapsed, spilling hundreds of thousands of Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound. The collapse prompted fears that the salmon would harm native salmon runs.

The move is expected to permanently end commercial net pen farming on the west coast of the United States. However, Cooke has lost two leases in Washington waters.

The decision also comes after Cooke Aquaculture was fined $332,000 for the August 2017 pen collapse. The state Department of Ecology also cited Cooke for violating leases and safety violations. The company has been ordered to remove all equipment and start deconstructing its facilities.

The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has refused to renew Cooke Aquaculture’s leases in Washington waters. Cooke had been operating two fish farms in Puget Sound. The last lease expires in 2025. The company had asked for a decade-long lease to continue farming Atlantic salmon. Cooke has contested the decision in court.

The move follows a year-long study of potential impacts to Puget Sound from commercial aquaculture. During the study, experts at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) analyzed more than 150 studies on the effects of marine aquaculture. Nine of those studies found no significant impacts to the wild stock. The report also cited biofouling and the degradation of natural habitats.

The decision comes after Cooke Aquaculture faced litigation from nonprofits and tribal nations. The company was also fined $332,000 for the collapse of its fish farm near Cypress Island in August of 2017.

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