Washington Legislature phases out Atlantic salmon farming

Bill targets Canada’s Cooke Aquaculture Pacific, largest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon in U.S.

The Washington Legislature on Friday voted to phase out marine Atlantic salmon aquaculture, an industry that has operated for decades in the state but came under heavy criticism after tens of thousands of nonnative fish escaped into waterways last summer.

After lengthy debate, the Senate passed the bill on a 31-16 vote. The House earlier passed it on 67-31 vote and it now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat who has expressed support.

The bill would end state leases and permits for operations that grow nonnative finfish in state waters when current leases expire in 2022.

The bill targets Canada’s Cooke Aquaculture Pacific, the largest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon in the U.S., whose net pens in northwest Washington collapsed Aug. 19. Cooke currently has two leases with the state.

State officials last month blamed Cooke’s negligence for failing to maintain its net pens. They said the escape of the salmon put the state’s ecosystem at risk and fined the company $332,000. Up to 263,000 invasive Atlantic salmon escaped into Puget Sound, raising fears about the impact to native Pacific salmon runs.

Sen. Kevin Ranker, a Democrat who sponsored similar legislation in the Senate, said the “state ban is a strong stance to ensure the protection of our marine environment and native salmon populations.”

Joel Richardson, vice-president of Cooke, said in a statement that the company was “deeply disappointed” with the bill’s passage, the potential impact on the industry and “more than 600 rural workers and their families that rely upon salmon farming for their livelihoods.”

READ MORE: Thousands of U.S. salmon escape near B.C., company blames solar eclipse

He said the company will evaluate its operations and investments in the state and ensure that whatever decision they make puts families and workers first.

Richardson told lawmakers last month that Cooke would be able to seek damages under a provision of the North American Free Trade Agreement if the measure passed. He said the bill would strip the Canada-based company of its $76 million investment in the state in an unfair way. He did not address that issue in his statement Friday.

Sen. Judy Warnick, a Republican, said “we are putting an industry out of business.”

Other Republicans who opposed the bill said it would put people out of work, shut down a vital industry and set a bad precedent.

“This is the wrong action tonight and I’m just appalled that this is the direction we’re going,” said Sen. Shelly Short, a Republican.

Republicans introduced numerous amendments that were rejected, including proposals to allow growing native fish or single-sex Atlantic salmon in net pens and a tax incentive package to help the industry transition to other operations.

Atlantic salmon farming has been in the state since the 1980s but remains controversial in the Northwest, famed for its native Pacific salmon runs and where tens of millions of dollars are spent each year to bring back declining populations of wild Pacific salmon stock.

Washington state joins Alaska, which has banned commercial finfish aquaculture. Oregon and California do not have commercial salmon farming operations.

“Phasing out of industrial ocean fish farms in Washington is a victory for our oceans and coastal communities,” said Hallie Templeton with Friends of the Earth in a statement.

Cooke, based in New Brunswick, Canada, is the only company to farm Atlantic salmon in state waters. The company bought operations from Icicle Acquisition Subsidiary in 2016. It was in the process of getting permits for an expanded operation near Port Angeles when the net pens off Cypress Island capsized.

Phuong Le, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Comox Valley RCMP looking for suspicious man in Courtenay

Man was frantically waving at vehicles

Comox Valley golfers prepare for another 55+ Games

Competition, camaraderie name of the game

Comox Valley firefighters assist with wildfire effort

Four Courtenay firefighters are in Fort St. James helping with the fight… Continue reading

Woman rescued from Stotan Falls calling for safety measures

3L Developments did not comment on immediate plans to add safety precautions

B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

This is only the fourth state of emergency ever issued during a fire season

Glacier View residents take a ride on the river

Ground Search and Rescue guides floaters on Puntledge

Two hurt in car wreck on old Island Highway

Honda and Volkswagen crash at 10 p.m. Friday at highway intersection in Nanaimo

Authorities mull evacuation order for Zeballos

Smoke billowed from the steep hillsides of Zeballos on Friday evening, as… Continue reading

Safeway union urges prejection of mediator recommendations

Says mediator asks for too many concessions

Fire chases B.C. crews out of their own camp

Crews in Burns Lake had to leave after a wildfire reportedly overtook their sleeping quarters

To address peacock problem, B.C. city moves ahead on trapping plan

Surrey’s new bylaw focuses on ensuring people no longer feed the birds, ahead of relocation

Hospitals to see ‘delays’ in care after losing Saudi students, health group says

About 1,000 Saudi residents called back to kingdom after suspending diplomatic relations with Canada

Bernier diatribe against ‘extreme multiculturalism’ boosts Liberal coffers

Party spokesperson Braeden Caley says online donations doubled, social media engagement quadrupled

‘Disjointed’ system hinders British Columbia First Nations in wildfire fight

More than 550 wildfires were burning in B.C. and crews were bracing for wind and dry lightning

Most Read