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.

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

Comments are closed

Just Posted

QUIZ: Put your knowledge of Canada to the test

How much do you know about our country?

Tofino and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation release joint statement welcoming ‘respectful’ tourists

“We have adapted to the new landscape and are very eager to welcome you back.”

Province backs Hesquiaht First Nation hydro project with $4.1M

Ah’ta’apq Creek Hydropower Project would decrease First Nation’s dependence on diesel.

Tin Wis Resort reopens in Tofino

In June, at low tide, Mackenzie Beach stretches to rocky outcroppings and tidal pools.

COVID-19: Jamie’s Whaling Station to remain closed for the rest of the 2020 season

The decision applies to the Tofino and Ucluelet whale watching adventure centres

‘This year is unlike any other’: Trudeau delivers Canada day address

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and the Prime Minister release video celebrating the national holiday

PHOTOS: Dual rallies take over Legislature lawn on Canada Day

Resist Canada 153 highlighted colonization and genocide, Unify the People called COVID a hoax

Gov. General honours Canadians for bravery, volunteer service

Five categories of winners presented on Canada Day

COVID-19: Should non-medical masks be mandatory in Canada?

New poll shows Canadians are divided on the rules around mandatory masks

Victoria police investigating possible hate crime on BC Transit bus

A young Black man was randomly struck by a Caucasian man who he did not know

‘A little bit scary for everybody’: Air passengers wary as new rules take effect

Masks or face coverings have been mandatory on flights since April 20

VIDEO: Prince William and Kate chat with B.C. hospital staff about COVID-19

Seven-minute video posted to Youtube on Canada Day

River centre says heavy rains could bring flooding to central, northeastern B.C.

Water levels are already unusually high and river banks can be extremely unstable

Most Read