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Washington Gov. Asks Cooke Aquaculture To Withdraw Request To Transfer One Million Atlantic Salmon
Posted on Friday, October 06, 2017 (PST)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz this week responded to Cooke Aquaculture’s plan to transfer one million Atlantic salmon smolts from Rochester to an existing net pen in the Puget Sound.


“We are very concerned about Cooke Aquaculture’s plan to transfer up to one million Atlantic salmon smolts to a net pen in Clam Bay across from Bainbridge Island. This is disappointing and frustrating, coming on the heels of the August collapse of Cooke’s net pen near Cypress Island that held 305,000 fish," Inslee said.


“While both Commissioner Franz and I have directed our respective state agencies not to issue permits or leases for any new net pens until we can review the results of the Cypress Island investigation, the Department of Fish and Wildlife does not have the means, based on current state law and regulatory rules, to prohibit the transfer into an existing pen.


“My office has asked Cooke to do the right thing – for our tribes, for our citizens, for our environment and for the industry’s long-term prospects – and withdraw their request."


"Though we cannot stop the transfer of these fish, the three agencies had the pens inspected by a licensed structural engineer to identify any deficiencies in the net pen structures at the Rich Passage facility. The Department of Ecology inspected the Clam Bay facility and did not find violations of the current water quality permit, but Ecology also requested that Cooke not move forward with its plans. We've had DNR staff on hand for that inspection, and we will continue to maintain a presence at the facilities," said Franz.


”DNR will also be conducting inspections by a licensed structural engineer at all of Cooke's operations in Washington while the investigation into the Cypress Island incident is ongoing,” said Franz. “The broad public outcry surrounding this net pen failure is understandable. So is the lack of confidence in how Cooke responded to the emergency, the recovery of fish and the management of future operations the company may pursue here in our waters.”


Inslee and Franz were responding to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s authorization for Cooke Aquaculture to transport about one million juvenile Atlantic salmon from the company's hatchery in Rochester, Wash., to an existing net-pen facility in Puget Sound.


Eric Kinne, manager of WDFW's hatchery division, said the transport permit is not related to the company's Cypress Island net-pen facility near the San Juan Islands, where one of Cooke's pens collapsed on Aug. 19 and released tens of thousands of Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound and nearby waters.


Cooke, which operates net pens at eight locations in Puget Sound, applied in late August for permission to move about one million 2-year-old smolts from the hatchery to its Rich Passage facility in south Puget Sound. The move is expected to take place through the fall.


WDFW issued the fish transport permit late Monday, Oct. 2, after working to ensure the company's facilities at Rich Passage met structural, water quality, and fish health requirements. Staff from WDFW and the departments of Natural Resources and Ecology visited the net-pen site last week. Ecology staff inspected the facility and did not find violations of the current water quality permit. Divers hired by DNR examined the net pens and support structures below the surface at Clam Bay along Rich Passage. The inspection did not yield grounds to deny the permit.


The Cypress Island incident remains under investigation, and efforts continue to recover the fish that escaped. About half of the 305,000 fish from the collapsed pen are thought to have escaped.


Also see:


-- CBB, Sept. 22, 2017, “Escaped Atlantic Salmon Continue To Be Caught; WDFW Says Fish Not Expected To Establish Themselves”


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