Scientists defend Cooke over salmon ban
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