Washington Legislature phases out Atlantic salmon farming

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

Washington Legislature phases out Atlantic salmon farming

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
NTC president calls for ‘massive change’ after Indigenous woman shot by police in Hitacu

“We need to get to the root of what is actually happening with the RCMP and our communities”

Hotel Zed Tofino has won a Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Award. (Westerly file photo)
Hotel Zed Tofino wins commercial building award

Vancouver Island Real Estate Board holds virtual gala.

The District of Ucluelet is fast-tracking temporary use permits for RVs/campervans as seasonal housing. (Westerly file photo)
Ucluelet reviews 11 applications for RVs as seasonal housing

“Housing is so essential to everyone, and an issue that cases a lot of stress to business owners.”

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Dr. Victoria Lee, CEO of Fraser Health, hosts an update on efforts to contain B.C.’s COVID-19 transmission in Surrey and the Fraser Valley and protect hospitals in the Lower Mainland, May 6, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate slowing, 20 more people die

Deaths include two people in their 40s, two in their 50s

Oak Bay resident Hugh Thompson died Friday, May 7. (GoFundMe photo)
Oak Bay dad dies mountain biking near Shawnigan Lake

Community rallies around family with online fundraiser

Most Read