the week since thousands of Atlantic salmon escaped a fish farm in Puget
Sound’s San Juan Islands, the state of Washington has asked anglers to catch
and keep the farmed salmon, formed a containment and recovery team of three
state agencies (an Incident Command structure) and placed a moratorium on
further permits for farmed salmon in Washington until the reasons for the
escape are better known.
this week, the accidental release of the non-native salmon has spurred Lummi
Nation fishermen to help remove the fish, catching thousands of the fish, and a
conservation group is threatening to sue the fish farm under the federal Clean
net pens – cages where the salmon are reared – that held the non-native salmon
collapsed and an unknown number of the fish escaped into surrounding waters
August 19. There were as many as 305,000 fish in the pens prior to the
collapse, according to Cooke Aquaculture, a Canadian-owned aquaculture company
with several locations in Puget Sound. Cooke owns the fish farm. The farmed
salmon were being held at its facility in Deepwater Bay near Cypress Island.
addition to the 20,000 Atlantic salmon caught by Lummi Nation fishermen in the
vicinity of Cyprus Island, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is reporting
catches by sports anglers of the salmon as far away as Neah Bay on the
Washington Coast, and Port Alberni on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island,
as well as south to Seattle and north to the U.S. border with Canada.
Washington state departments of Natural Resources, WDFW and Ecology, along with
the Office of the Governor and the state Emergency Management Division, formed
an Incident Command structure to respond to the escape of the Atlantic salmon.
to an NRD update, 142,176 of the salmon had been recovered by Cooke from the
collapsed pens as of Wednesday, August 31 and the site is no cleared of fish (http://www.dnr.wa.gov/pictures/IMG_4581.PNG). Cooke has also removed four nets and one
walkway from the collapsed facility.
Gov. Jay Inslee said the release of the fish into Puget Sound created an
release of net pen-raised Atlantic salmon into Washington’s waters has created
an emergency situation that has state agencies working together to protect the
health of our salmon,” Inslee said in a news release. “I have directed the
Department of Ecology to put a hold on any new permits for net pens until a
thorough investigation of this incident is completed. Tribes and others who
fish Washington waters deserve a comprehensive response to this incident,
including answers to what happened and assurances that it won’t happen again.”
believe the company must do everything it can to stop any additional escapes
and to recover as many fish as possible, including adequate compensation for
those working to remove Atlantic salmon from our waters,” he continued.
Friday, August 24, the Wild Fish Conservancy sent a 60-day notice to Cooke notifying
the company that it intends to file a citizen suit under section 505 of the
federal Clean Water Act, saying that the near-complete failure of the net pen
facility is resulting in discharges of farmed Atlantic salmon, dead fish
carcasses and debris, among other pollutants (http://wildfishconservancy.org/cwaletterofintentcookeaqua/at_download/file)
discharges represent blatantly negligent violations of the National Pollutant
Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits under which Cooke Aquaculture’s
Atlantic salmon net pens currently operate,” the Conservancy said in a press
Conservancy said it is “deeply disheartened by Cooke Aquaculture’s glaring
negligence, negligence which has led to an environmental disaster of epic
proportion.” It said the salmons’ escape represents a threat to already
imperiled wild fish populations, mammals and the “fragile Puget Sound
escapement of Atlantic salmon poses threats of competition to native juvenile
and adult salmon and steelhead,” said the Conservancy’s fisheries scientist Dr.
Nick Gayeski. “The escaped fish still need to feed and thus are likely to
compete with native juvenile Pacific salmon and steelhead, including preying on
them. Like Pacific salmon, Atlantic salmon spawn in the fall. The escaped fish
are capable of spawning and will begin entering Puget Sound rivers to attempt
to spawn. Whether the escaped fish succeed in producing offspring or not, they
will compete on the spawning grounds with native salmon, including endangered
Puget Sound Chinook, posing a threat to the spawning success of native salmon.”
dangerous and reckless industry not only threatens the recovery of our native
salmon and orca populations, it threatens the health of Puget Sound and the
Northwest's cultural identity. This disaster needs to be a wake-up call for the
public to get involved, and to demand a halt to the expansion of the Atlantic
salmon net pen industry into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.”
said in an August 21 statement that “Exceptionally high tides and currents
caused damage to a salmon farm that has been in operation near Cypress Island
for approximately 30 years,” estimating at the time that several thousand fish
had escaped the pen structure.
appears that many fish are still contained within the nets. It will not be
possible to confirm exact numbers of fish losses until harvesting is completed
and an inventory of fish in the pens has been conducted,” Cooke continued (http://www.cookeseafood.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Statement-on-damage-to-Cypress-farm-site-August-21-2017-final-1.pdf).
the Conservancy claims in its letter to the company and in a news release that
tides were what can normally be expected this time of year and that the
structure had endured higher tides during each of the months prior to the
its first year as owners of its Washington fish farms, “Cooke Aquaculture
Pacific identified areas for investment to bring the facilities up to Cooke’s
global standard,” Cooke said in its statement. “As part of that process, we
applied for permits to allow us to strengthen and update the Cypress site even
before the existing fish were harvested out. We will work with the relevant
authorities to make sure we can employ the best knowledge, technology and the
expertise of our global experts as we rebuild the farm.”
year Cooke purchased five salmon farms in Washington and it wants to build 14
more floating circular net pens about 1-1/2 miles offshore of Port Angeles in
the Strait of Juan de Fuca, moving its current operations from the Port Angeles
harbor and increasing production by 20 percent. That project is in the
permitting phase, but now has come to a standstill due to Inslee’s moratorium
on permitting aquaculture projects until the state completes a review of the
incident at Cyprus Island.
has the largest marine aquaculture industry in the U.S. producing about 17
million pounds of Atlantic salmon each year, according to the state.
Incident Command structure includes the three state agencies in collaboration
with local tribes and Cooke. The goal is to manage the response efficiently and
to work with the tribes and Cooke to contain the escaped salmon as soon as
is asking anglers to report their catches of Atlantic salmon so that it can
track how far the fish have dispersed.
may only fish for Atlantic salmon in marine waters that are already open to
fishing for Pacific salmon. Anglers also must stop fishing for Atlantic salmon
once they've caught their daily limit of Pacific salmon. There is no size or
catch limit on Atlantic salmon.
may also fish for Atlantic salmon in freshwater areas open to fishing for trout
and Pacific salmon. Anglers should check the state’s 2017-18 Sport Fishing
Rules Pamphlet for information on rivers that are open to salmon or trout
fishing. Anglers also must stop fishing for Atlantic salmon once they've caught
their daily limit of trout or Pacific salmon.
reports to WDFW can be made online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/salmon/atlantic_salmon_catch.php
more information go to WDNR’s webpage “Cypress Island Atlantic Salmon Pen Break”