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Cleanup of collapsed fish pens removes 120,000 farmed salmon

Cleanup of collapsed fish pens removes 120,000 farmed salmon

Need a good excuse to spend the day fishing? The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has you covered. On Aug. 19, an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 10-pound farmed Atlantic salmon escaped into the waters of Puget Sound after a pen holding some 305,000 of the species suffered a structural failure. In an effort to protect native species, WDFW officials are urging everyone to hit the water and catch as many of the escaped salmon as possible. Despite Warren’s assurances that the species poses no threat to native fish populations, he doesn’t want to take any chances.

Cooke Aquaculture, which owns and operates the fish farm just off the island of Cypress, has now removed 120,000 farmed Atlantic salmon from the net pens that 10 days ago held more 300,000 fish.

“We are getting closer to containment of the actual fish still contained within the net structure and Cooke Aquaculture is today attempting to get nets out of the water,” said Cori Simmons, public information officer for the state’s multiagency response team who is overseeing and coordinating the containment and recovery.

Anglers are helping, too, after the state asked recreational and tribal fisherman help catch the thousands of farmed fish that escaped the pen nine days ago.

“We heard various report about fish being collected outside by recreational fisherman and tribes, and that’s why it’s so important that people report these catches thru DFW’s website,” said Simmons.

The Lummi Nation said Monday its fishermen have caught an estimated 20,000 of the escaped Atlantic salmon.

Cooke Aquaculture, which owns and operates the fish farm just off the island of Cypress, has now removed 120,000 farmed Atlantic salmon from the net pens that 10 days ago held more 300,000 fish. Photo: KOMO News

Photo: KOMO News

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has staff working local parks and boat launches to help fisherman report their catch since it’s not clear just how many thousands of farmed fish escaped after the collapse.

“We caught seven and lost four on Sunday,” said Tom Elliott who was going fishing off Cypress Island for the Atlantic salmon. A friend of mine caught 25 fish. Everyone was catching them Sunday so we are going to go back out today and try it again.”

The agency has created a real time map of catch reports of Atlantic Salmon to help the state track and target the fish.

Meanwhile, officials are closely monitoring Cooke as they get closer to full containment of the fish.

Next crews will begin removing the mangled pens.

On Monday, state officials said their No. 1 question is how and why the farm collapsed, allowing the fish to swim free with wild salmon.

“My hope is for full containment of this spill as soon as possible and that everyone does their part and we get to the root of this problem,” said Simmons.

Chuck Brown who is a communications manager with Cooke Aquaculture says the company’s crews take this critical incident very seriously and are fully focused on a safe clean-up of the site.

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