10/04/2017: "More Atlantic Salmon Farming Allowed"
( M. Ried photo)
Gov. Jay Inslee and Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz today responded to Cooke Aquaculture’s plan to transfer 1 million Atlantic salmon smolts from Rochester to an existing net pen in the Puget Sound.
Eric Kinne, manager of WDFW's hatchery division, said the transport permit is not related to the company's Cypress Island net-pen facility near the San Juan Islands, where one of Cooke's pens collapsed on Aug. 19 and released tens of thousands of Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound and nearby waters.
The Cypress Island incident remains under investigation, and efforts continue to recover the fish that escaped. About half of the 305,000 fish from the collapsed pen are thought to have escaped.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has authorized Cooke Aquaculture to transport about 1 million juvenile Atlantic salmon from the company's hatchery in Rochester, Wash., to an existing net-pen facility in Puget Sound.
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 support structures below the surface at Clam Bay along Rich Passage. The inspection did not yield grounds to deny the permit.
Inslee stated “While both Commissioner Franz and I have directed our respective state agencies not to issue permits or leases for any new net pens until we can review the results of the Cypress Island investigation, the Department of Fish and Wildlife does not have the means, based on current state law and regulatory rules, to prohibit the transfer into an existing pen.
“The Department of Ecology inspected the Clam Bay facility and did not find violations of the current water quality permit, but Ecology also requested that Cooke not move forward with its plans. We've had DNR staff on hand for that inspection, and we will continue to maintain a presence at the facilities," said Commissioner Franz.
”DNR will also be conducting inspections by a licensed structural engineer at all of Cooke's operations in Washington while the investigation into the Cypress Island incident is ongoing. The broad public outcry surrounding this net pen failure is understandable. So is the lack of confidence in how Cooke responded to the emergency, the recovery of fish and the management of future operations the company may pursue here in our waters.”
Following the net pen collapse, Gov. Jay Inslee directed that no permits be issued for new aquaculture net pens while the incident was being investigated. However, 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 its permit application and expressed disappointment that the company chose to proceed while thousands of escaped Atlantic salmon remain unrecovered.