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Net-pens for salmon farming. (Photo: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency)

Washington senators approve bill to phase out marine salmon farms

Click on the flag for more information about United States UNITED STATES
Friday, February 09, 2018, 22:50 (GMT + 9)

The Washington Senate approved a bill that aims to phase out salmon farming in net cages in state waters and end it in 2025, when existing concessions will lapse.

Senate Bill 6086, approved by 35 votes in favor and 12 against, will now be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration, The Seattle Times reported.

Before the vote, Governor Jay Inslee called these salmon farms as  “a risk that is intolerable,” and blamed Cooke Aquaculture for “pronounced lack of responsibility” that led to the collapse of its Cypress Island farm last summer.

The Canadian company owns and operates several farms for the breeding of Atlantic salmon around Puget Sound.

State agencies carried out research which revealed that the collapse was due to Cooke’s negligence. The company had failed to adequately clean nets holding farmed salmon, which they were excessively laden with mussels and other marine organisms.

Cooke also misled the public about the cause and scope of the escape of fish from its facilities at Cypress Island. Researchers determined that far more fish escaped to Washington waters than Cooke stated, and more than 200,000 still unaccounted for.

“This risk is simply too great,” Inslee said. “It is no longer acceptable to the people of the state of Washington to expose our waters to the threat of Atlantic salmon net pens.”

Senator Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, co-sponsor of the bill, said that “wild salmon are threatened,” and that “this is the sort of negligent behavior by this corporation that can’t go unchecked.”

A project that would replace the phaseout of the industry, backed by Cooke, which required operators to use only female salmon after their lease expires, was easily defeated, as was an amendment that would require further study.

Cooke has already lost leases to operate five of its nine net pens because of enforcement by state Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. The company is fighting in court the termination of one of the leases, at Port Angeles, saying it is based on a misunderstanding.

In an email sent to The Seattle Times, Joel Richardson, vice president for public relations for Cooke Aquaculture, he said: “While disappointed in this direction, our family-owned company and our local employees are committed to working with legislators and regulators to continue operating our Washington fish farming sites sustainably.”

Related articles:

-Washington State cancels Cooke lease on Cypress Island
-Cooke Aquaculture fined for negligence that led to salmon escape

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