Our mission is to protect the habitat of Puget Sound tidelands from the underregulated expansion of new and intensive shellfish aquaculture methods. These methods were never anticipated when the Shoreline Management Act was passed. They are transforming the natural tideland ecosystems in Puget Sound and are resulting in a fractured shoreline habitat. In South Puget Sound much of this has been done with few if any meaningful shoreline permits and with limited public input. It is exactly what the Shoreline Management Act was intended to prevent.

Get involved and contact your elected officials to let them you do not support aquaculture's industrial transformation of Puget Sound's tidelands.

Governor Inslee:

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Governor Jay Inslee Signs Into Law Bill Banning Nonnative Finfish Operations in Washington

 [Update 3/23: Tim Eyman has withdrawn his petitions. Whether he will now propose a referendum ending Cooke's leases immediately is unknown.]
“The economic, cultural, and recreational resources of these incredible waters will no longer be jeopardized by the negligent actions of this industry,” said Sen. Kevin Ranker [also thanking  Representative Kristine Lytton for her role]
(See KUOW report on signing here: http://kuow.org/post/atlantic-salmon-farms-banned-8-months-after-great-fish-escape)

Governor Jay Inslee has signed into law EHB2957 which phases out nonnative finfish aquaculture in Puget Sound, including nonnative Atlantic salmon. It was the direct result of Cooke Aquaculture's negligence in maintaining a net pen growing nonnative Atlantic salmon in Puget Sound. That negligence, and resulting escape, crystallized the resistance to these operations which had existed for decades.
(See DNR/WDFW/DOE report here: https://www.dnr.wa.gov/…/aqr_cypress_investigation_report.p…)

The collapse of that net pen had initially begun in July, but the severity of that initial collapse was not relayed to agencies. Instead of emptying the pens at that time, Cooke chose to leave salmon in for an additional month. Before they were able to harvest those salmon, tidal currents (not a storm) collapsed the already damaged net pen, allowing an estimated 250,000 nonnative Atlantic salmon to escape.

Initially, Cooke stated only a few thousand had escaped. Then, perhaps up to 6,000. Then, 160,000. A report from DNR, DOE and WDFW (link above) determined that, in fact, a far greater portion of the population of nonnative fish had escaped. Up to 260,000 of the 305,000 within the pen. In addition, the report alleged Cooke was negligent in not maintaining the nets and pen, allowing marine life to grow on them to such an extent it created resistance beyond which the structure was able to stand up to.

Equally misleading was the response from scientists who claimed research showed these fish would not travel far, remaining in the area of the pens. They were described by one NOAA scientist as couch potatoes, similar to cows lost on the Serengeti.

Instead, these salmon spread throughout the Salish Sea, following their instincts, looking for fresh water. They were found as far as 52 miles up the Skagit River; at the mouth of the Elwha River; and in the Snohomish, Skagit, Skokomish, Campbell and Fraser Rivers. All rivers where spawning native salmon struggle to survive. Swimming over 200 miles, putting in question all other science NOAA used to minimize the risk of these operations.

Citizens in Washington have been averse to nonnative Atlantic salmon net pen operations in Puget Sound for decades. Attempts by various counties to keep them from their waters were not allowed by the Department of Ecology who claimed they were a water dependent use which had to be permitted.

Cooke Aquaculture should have been well aware of how people felt about these operations when they purchased them from Icicle Seafoods. Instead, all they saw was an inexpensive opportunity (they claim Icicle was near bankrupt) to expand into Washington's clean waters. Instead of choosing not to use pens they knew clearly were in ill repair, they instead pressed on, hoping to squeeze one more harvest from an already damaged net pen. Worse, it was discovered by DNR that the Cypress facility was not the only operation in disrepair, resulting in cancellation of 2 DNR leases, leaving Cooke with 2 remaining, which they will be allowed to use until the leases end (~2022).

Cooke now claims they are the victim of being a Canadian based company, threatening arbitration under Chapter 11 of NAFTA. They point to escapes over 20 years ago when operations were owned by US companies who weren't penalized. To be clear - those escapes did occur. But those companies did not try to hide what happened. They also resulted in much tighter regulatory oversight of these operations, with no escapes happening afterwards. Until Cooke entered the picture.

This has nothing to do with Cooke being Canadian. It is the direct result of decades of additional information on nonnative salmon. It is the direct result of native species in Washington and Canada - whether salmon or Orca - being under far greater pressure. It is the direct result of Washington's citizens caring so much for endangered native species that hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent to support and restore those native species. Cooke did not have their eyes on the ball.

Now, Tim Eyman appears from nowhere and claims he wants to have Washington's citizens vote on a referendum which will overturn the bill just signed into law by Governor Inslee. Cooke claims they have nothing to do with it. That may be true, but Mr. Eyman has never pursued environmental referendums, choosing to focus on taxes. Some claim only on being paid to collect signatures.

What is likely true is that should Mr. Eyman decide - for whatever his reasons are - to pursue a referendum, Cooke Aquaculture will likely find itself facing a separate referendum, one which demands these leases still held be ended now, and not allowed to run out in 2022. Not because they are Canadian, but because Washington's citizens do not want nonnative Atlantic salmon in Puget Sound any longer than they have to be.

You can thank Governor Inslee for his support of native species here:


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