Sci­en­tists de­fend Cooke over salmon ban

Fish Farmer - - News -

SOME of the lead­ing marine sci­en­tists in the US have writ­ten to Wash­ing­ton state of­fi­cials op­pos­ing leg­is­la­tion to ban salmon farm­ing in the re­gion.

A bill passed both the Wash­ing­ton State Se­nate and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to phase out and then ban At­lantic salmon farm­ing in the state by the time that leases on salmon net pens run out by 2025.

The leg­is­la­tion, which is await­ing the sig­na­ture of Gover­nor Jay Inslee, fol­lows a mass es­cape of At­lantic salmon last Au­gust from a farm owned by Cooke Aqua­cul­ture.

The sci­en­tists said: ‘We call on our es­teemed elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives to de­lay any de­ci­sions re­gard­ing the fu­ture of salmon farm­ing in Wash­ing­ton un­til the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity, rep­re­sented in this state by some of the world’s lead­ing aqua­cul­ture and fish­eries sci­en­tists and re­searchers in the fields of fish cul­ture, ge­net­ics, nutri­tion, and fish be­hav­iour, has had an op­por­tu­nity to present science in a clear and ob­jec­tive light – rather than in a cli­mate fu­elled by fear and pro­pa­ganda.’

Last month, the CEO of Cooke trav­elled to the state cap­i­tal, Olympia, in an eleventh hour bid to lobby leg­is­la­tors.

Glenn B. Cooke, founder and boss of the New Brunswick, Canada, based firm, said his com­pany had taken re­spon­si­bil­ity for the es­cape from one of its Puget Sound farms last sum­mer, es­ti­mated as high as 250,000, fish.

Cooke called the leg­is­la­tion an ‘over­re­ac­tion’ and com­pared the pro­posed ban to ‘some­thing you would hear in the Soviet Union’.

In an in­ter­view with a lo­cal news sta­tion, he said that were the ban to go through, ‘good work­ing peo­ple [would be] out of jobs’.

Draw­ing at­ten­tion to the fact that most fish­ing quo­tas are de­creas­ing, he high­lighted the role he be­lieved aqua­cul­ture should play in the US, which he noted is a net im­porter of fish.

He also cast doubt on a re­port by state in­ves­ti­ga­tors, which con­cluded that the col­lapse of the com­pany’s net pen farm was most likely caused by bio­foul­ing.

Nonethe­less, he said his com­pany had agreed to pay for more in­spec­tions and in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments, if it is given a sec­ond chance to raise At­lantic salmon in Wash­ing­ton.

Cooke also of­fered to raise only fe­male salmon in Wash­ing­ton so that in the event of an­other es­cape, the fish would not be able to re­pro­duce.

Cooke spokesman Joel Richard­son said the com­pany will pur­sue manda­tory ar­bi­tra­tion un­der the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment if the Wash­ing­ton leg- is­la­ture tries to phase out At­lantic salmon farm­ing.

‘There’s a trade agree­ment that pro­vides for re­lief in ex­actly this type of sit­u­a­tion where a for­eign com­pany is treated worse than, and is dis­ad­van­taged against, its do­mes­tic coun­ter­parts,’ Richard­son said.

Above: Glenn B. Cooke

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