Vancouver Sun

Wash­ing­ton can­cels lease at site of salmon net-pen col­lapse

- The As­so­ci­ated Press PHUONG LE Business · Washington · Seattle · Pacific Ocean · Atlantic Ocean · Washington State · Port Angeles, WA · Superior · United States of America · University of Puget Sound · New Brunswick · Natural Resources Canada · Natural Resources Canada · Clallam County

The state of Wash­ing­ton SEAT­TLE can­celled a lease with Cooke Aqua­cul­ture Pa­cific at the site where net-pens hold­ing farmed At­lantic salmon col­lapsed last sum­mer, re­leas­ing thou­sands of non-na­tive fish into Puget Sound.

The de­ci­sion comes days af­ter a multi-agency state in­ves­ti­ga­tion found the New Brunswick com­pany neg­li­gent for fail­ing to ad­e­quately clean its nets, say­ing that di­rectly con­trib­uted to the net-pen fail­ure in Au­gust at the fa­cil­ity.

The re­port said the nets failed be­cause they were ex­ces­sively laden with mus­sels and other marine or­gan­isms. That in­creased the drag on the nets from tidal cur­rents and over­whelmed the moor­ing sys­tem.

State of­fi­cials last week also ac­cused the com­pany of mis­lead­ing them by un­der-re­port­ing how many fish es­caped into Puget Sound on Aug. 19 and over-re­port­ing how many fish were cap­tured. It fined the com­pany $332,000 for al­leged clean wa­ter law vi­o­la­tions for re­leas­ing in­va­sive species into Wash­ing­ton state wa­ters.

“Cooke has fla­grantly vi­o­lated the terms of its lease at Cypress Is­land,” Pub­lic Lands Com­mis­sioner Hi­lary Franz said in a state­ment. “The com­pany ’s reck­less dis­re­gard en­dan­gered the health of our wa­ters and our peo­ple, and it will not be tol­er­ated.”

Last week, the com­pany crit­i­cized the state’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion as in­com­plete and in­ac­cu­rate. The com­pany dis­puted the find­ings, in­clud­ing its ac­count­ing of fish. It said Cooke em­ploy­ees were un­der state su­per­vi­sion when the re­cov­ered fish were counted and that the state re­lied on wrong es­ti­mates about av­er­age fish weight.

This is the sec­ond Cooke lease that Franz has can­celled in two months. Franz over­sees the state Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources, which man­ages and leases sta­te­owned wa­ters. All of Cooke’s marine-farmed salmon op­er­a­tions hold state leases.

In De­cem­ber, Franz ended the state’s lease with Cooke at its marine aqua­cul­ture in Port An­ge­les, say­ing the com­pany vi­o­lated the terms of its lease by not main­tain­ing the fa­cil­ity in a safe con­di­tion. Cooke has chal­lenged that de­ci­sion in Clal­lam County Su­pe­rior Court.

Cooke is the largest U.S. pro­ducer of farmed At­lantic salmon. Be­fore the two lease can­cel­la­tions, the com­pany op­er­ated eight com­mer­cial salmon net pens at four lo­ca­tions. The com­pany bought the fa­cil­i­ties from Ici­cle Ac­qui­si­tion Sub­sidiary in 2016.

State of­fi­cials said Sun­day they’re re­view­ing Cooke’s other farmed salmon op­er­a­tions at Rich Pas­sage and Hope Is­land in cen­tral Puget Sound.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada