Farmed Atlantic Salmon | Quinault Division of Natural Resources

State Greenlights 1 Million Farmed Salmon for Puget Sound

The WA Department of Fish and Wildlife has quietly given a permit to Canada-based Cooke Aquaculture to raise an additional one million farmed Atlantic salmon in Puget Sound, despite an August mishap that saw thousands of the firm’s salmon escape.

Eric Kinne, manager of WDFW’s hatchery division, said the permit is not related to the company’s Cypress Island net pen facility in the San Juan Islands, where on August 19 one of Cooke’s pens collapsed and more than 100,000 farmed salmon escaped.

Atlantic Salmon Operations

Cooke, which operates net pens at eight locations in Puget Sound, applied in late August for permission to move one million two-year-old smolts from its hatchery near Rochester, Wash., to its Rich Passage rearing facility in south Puget Sound. The move will take place through the fall. 

The permit raises a question: Can Gov. Jay Inslee walk his talk as America’s self-identified greenest governor?

As WDFW noted, Inslee directed that no permits for new aquaculture net pens be issued while the disaster at Cypress Island was being investigated. But, WDFW claimed, “current laws and administrative rules do not give state regulators the authority to deny Cooke’s permit to move healthy fish into an existing net pen. The Governor’s office asked Cooke to withdraw the permit application and expressed disappointment that the company chose to proceed while thousands of escaped Atlantic salmon remain unrecovered.”

Atlantic Salmon Zombie Fish 

“One million baby zombie fish are arriving in Puget Sound even though investigation of the August pen collapse is more than a month from completion,” said Tim Ballew II, chairman of the Lummi Indian Business Council north of Bellingham. “We are quite alarmed.”

Ballew criticized the state for no real consultation on the permit to Cooke Aquaculture. He said the exact cause of the Cypress Island accident has yet to be identified.

“We should focus on that, what happened and why, and whether it could happen at another pen, before bringing in new species,” added Ballew. “They should have held off until we see the investigative report.”

Atlantic Salmon found in Quinault River

The escaped Atlantic salmon have been found in the Quinault River along the Washington Coast and in the Chilliwack River in British Columbia. The Chilliwack is a tributary of the Fraser River, one of the world’s greatest sockeye salmon streams.

Writing to Inslee on Monday, in a letter obtained by The Seattle Times, Cooke Aquaculture’s lawyers told the Governor that the permit “is not a permit for any new operation, but rather a routine permit to transfer fish from the hatchery to grow-out pens.”

“Cooke must continue to tend to ongoing business operations: The transfer permit it has applied for is an ordinary course-of-business requirement,” wrote a lawyer from the Miller, Nash, Graham & Dunn law firm.

Fish farming is a big, controversial business in British Columbia. Its boosters including Canada’s federal government and a provincial government voted out of office in May. Critics claim farmed salmon have spread disease to wild salmon in such places as Desolation Sound and the Broughton Archipelago.

Washington is the only place on the U.S. side of the border to allow open-water Atlantic salmon net-pen fish farms.

The August spill remains under investigation.

Cooke Aquaculture at first blamed the failure of its Cypress Island pen on very high tides coincidental with an upcoming eclipse of the sun. And it initially pegged the escape at fewer than 5,000 fish.

The WDFW ran a bit of interference for Cooke in announcing the million-fish transfer.

“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,” it said. “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 and support structures below the surface at Clam Bay along Rich Passage. The inspection did not yield ground to deny the permit.”

Updated 3:44 pm, Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Original Article can be found HERE

Quinault Division of Natural Resources