Washington state is nixing fish farms in public waters
Washington state will no longer lease state-owned aquatic land for fish farms. The Department of Natural Resources informed Cooke Aquaculture that it will not renew its leases for two Puget Sound fish farms.
Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said that the move is a "critical step to support our waters, fishermen, tribes, and native salmon."
Cooke Aquaculture’s request for lease renewal for two fish farms off Bainbridge Island and Skagit Bay was recently denied. The company has until Dec. 14 to finish its fish farm operations and remove its aquaculture facilities.
In 2017, a net pen at its Cypress Island farm collapsed. State investigators estimated as many as 263,000 fish escaped, which is twice the number that Cooke originally had reported. Cooke was fined more than $330,000.
“Since the catastrophic Cypress Island net pen collapse in 2017, I have stood tall to defend the waters of Puget Sound,” Franz said. “This effort began by terminating finfish net pen operations due to lease violations. Despite years of litigation – and a company that has fought us every step of the way – we are now able to deny lease renewals for the remaining net pen sites. Today, we are returning our waters to wild fish and natural habitat. Today, we are freeing Puget Sound of enclosed cages.”
Since the 2017 incident, the Legislature phased out Atlantic salmon farming. The company has since shifted to steelhead trout for its remaining leases.