Atlantic salmon. (Photo: Odin Hjellestad/Copyright: FIS)
Washington State cancels Cooke lease on Cypress Island
Monday, February 05, 2018, 22:40 (GMT + 9)
Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands of Washington state, announced the termination of Cooke Aquaculture’s lease for its Cypress Island facility.
The Canadian company raises Atlantic salmon at the site and leases the aquatic lands from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from Washington.
Last August, an incident caused a net pen holding farmed Atlantic salmon to collapse, releasing an estimated 250,000 non-native salmon in the Salish Sea, many more than what Cooke’s initial reports indicated (around 160,000 fish).
State investigators finally found out that Cooke’s failure to adequately clean and maintain its facility was the primary cause of the net pen collapse at Cypress Island.
The investigation revealed that around 110 tonnes of mussels and marine organisms had accumulated on the pen’s nets, mainly due to due to improper cleaning and neglect. Tidal currents pushed strongly against the mass of organisms on the nets, which overwhelmed the pen’s mooring system, finally crushing it.
“Cooke has flagrantly violated the terms of its lease at Cypress Island,” said Franz, “The company’s reckless disregard endangered the health of our waters and our people, and it will not be tolerated.
The company disputed the report’s findings, including half the fish that had escaped. It said Cooke employees were under state supervision when the recovered fish were counted and that the state relied on wrong estimates about average fish weight.
“Given that Cooke Aquaculture Pacific received the notice of termination on Saturday, we will reserve comment until we’ve had the proper time to review the letter and assess its impact on our operations and our employees’ livelihoods,” said Cooke spokesman Joel Richardson.
Other lease violations noted in the termination letter include:
- Anchors outside of the leasehold,
- Facility additions added without the consent of DNR, and
- Failure to maintain another net pen at the site, one which is in poor condition and in danger of catastrophic failure.
Last December, Commissioner Franz concluded Cooke’s lease of state aquatic lands in Port Angeles, because of failure to maintain the facility in a safe condition.
DNR is currently reviewing Cooke’s other Atlantic salmon facilities – at Rich Passage and Hope Island. When that process is complete, Commissioner Franz will assess DNR’s legal options.
Cooke is the largest U.S. producer of farmed Atlantic salmon. Before the two lease cancellations, the company operated eight commercial salmon net pens at four locations.
-Cooke Aquaculture fined for negligence that led to salmon escape