DNR ends net pen aquaculture on state-owned aquatic lands

Posted November 18, 2022 at 1:26 pm by

The Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Nat­ur­al Resources shares news about a major pol­i­cy change relat­ed to aqua­cul­ture in the state.

Washington’s pub­lic aquat­ic lands will no longer be home to com­mer­cial fin­fish net pen aqua­cul­ture. Com­mis­sion­er of Pub­lic Lands Hilary Franz announced today on Bain­bridge Island an exec­u­tive order that would pro­hib­it com­mer­cial fin­fish net pen aqua­cul­ture on state-owned aquat­ic lands man­aged by her agency, the Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Nat­ur­al Resources.

“As we’ve seen too clear­ly here in Wash­ing­ton, there is no way to safe­ly farm fin­fish in open sea net pens with­out jeop­ar­diz­ing our strug­gling native salmon. Today, I’m announc­ing an end to the prac­tice. We, as a state, are going to do bet­ter by our salmon, by our fish­er­men, and by our tribes,” said Franz. “Com­mer­cial fin­fish farm­ing is detri­men­tal to salmon, orcas and marine habi­tat. I’m proud to stand with the rest of the west coast today by say­ing our waters are far too impor­tant to risk for fish farm­ing profits.”

Com­mis­sion­er Franz’s order will align Washington’s net pen salmon aqua­cul­ture pol­i­cy with poli­cies already in place in Alas­ka, Cal­i­for­nia, and Oregon.

Com­mis­sion­er Franz was joined in her announce­ment by Chair­man Leonard Fors­man of the Suquamish Tribe and Emma Helver­son, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Wild Fish Conservancy.

“On behalf of the Suquamish peo­ple, I want to thank Com­mis­sion­er Franz for lis­ten­ing to Tribes and oth­ers who place the health of the Sal­ish Sea as their top pri­or­i­ty.” said Fors­man. “End­ing com­mer­cial fin­fish farm­ing in our ances­tral waters is an impor­tant step towards pro­tect­ing marine water qual­i­ty, salmon pop­u­la­tions, and the endan­gered South­ern Res­i­dent Killer Whales. The impacts of com­mer­cial fin­fish farm­ing put all of that at risk, and threat­ened treaty rights and ulti­mate­ly our way of life and culture.”

“The impor­tance of this new pol­i­cy for wild fish, water qual­i­ty, and the greater health of Puget Sound can­not be over­stat­ed. We are so grate­ful to Com­mis­sion­er Franz for lis­ten­ing to the pub­lic and tak­ing action to pro­tect Puget Sound, not just today, but far into the future for the ben­e­fit of so many gen­er­a­tions to come,” says Helver­son. “All week, we have been hear­ing from peo­ple through­out our region and col­leagues around the world already cel­e­brat­ing Com­mis­sion­er Franz’s deci­sion ear­li­er this week to deny leas­es to the net pen indus­try. Now, this his­toric and bold pol­i­cy is set­ting a new mod­el that will go on to bol­ster efforts around the world work­ing toward this same end. What we’ve accom­plished togeth­er is tru­ly some­thing for Wash­ing­ton to be proud of.”

“The Sal­ish Sea is one of our eldest rela­tions and was here long before us. It is one of our most pow­er­ful teach­ers, and we have a sacred oblig­a­tion to pre­serve, pro­mote, and pro­tect it at all costs,” said Antho­ny “Tse Sum Ten” Hillaire, Lum­mi Nation Chair­man. “Since time immemo­r­i­al, we have har­vest­ed fin­fish and shell­fish, and ensur­ing that our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren have access to those same rights is of utmost impor­tance, as a healthy and pro­duc­tive Sal­ish Sea is essen­tial to our survival.”

“Tulalip is com­mit­ted to pro­tect­ing the envi­ron­ment and restor­ing his­toric fish num­bers, and this is why we urge cau­tion as alter­na­tive meth­ods of pro­duc­tion are con­sid­ered. The Sal­ish Sea is a del­i­cate ecosys­tem which requires our con­ser­va­tion and stew­ard­ship,” said Teri Gob­in, Chair­woman of the Tulalip Tribes.

“We say, ‘the table is set when the tide goes out.’ Seafoods have always been a sta­ple of Samish diet and tra­di­tions,” said Tom Wooten, Samish Indi­an Nation Chair­man. “By remov­ing the Sound’s remain­ing net pens, our del­i­cate ecosys­tem now gets a chance to replen­ish, repair and heal. We are grate­ful and lift our hands to the DNR’s part­ner­ship in help­ing pro­tect the Sal­ish Sea that tie us to our his­to­ry and culture.”

Com­mis­sion­er Franz’s order directs DNR staff to devel­op nec­es­sary changes to agency rules, poli­cies, and pro­ce­dures to pro­hib­it com­mer­cial fin­fish aqua­cul­ture on state-owned aquat­ic lands.

This order only applies to com­mer­cial net pen fin fish aqua­cul­ture, and does not apply to hatch­eries that restore or boost native stocks.

Com­mer­cial fin­fish farm­ing has oper­at­ed in marine net pens in Puget Sound for more than 40 years, oper­at­ing on aquat­ic lands leased from DNR. Cit­ing sev­er­al areas where the Cooke vio­lat­ed terms of the leas­es, Com­mis­sion­er Franz Mon­day ter­mi­nat­ed the two remain­ing fin­fish net pen aqua­cul­ture facil­i­ties leas­es in Washington.

DNR’s denial of Cooke Aquaculture’s request to re-lease the sites to con­tin­ue fin­fish net pen aqua­cul­ture gives the com­pa­ny until Dec. 14 to fin­ish oper­a­tions and begin remov­ing its facil­i­ties and repair­ing any envi­ron­men­tal dam­age. The Hope Island lease expired in March and has been in month-to-month holdover sta­tus since. The Rich Pas­sage lease expired in November.

New Pol­i­cy Dri­ven by 2017 Collapse
DNR deter­mined that allow­ing Cooke to con­tin­ue oper­a­tions posed risks of envi­ron­men­tal harm to state-owned aquat­ic lands result­ing from lack of adher­ence to lease pro­vi­sions and increased costs to DNR asso­ci­at­ed with con­tract com­pli­ance, mon­i­tor­ing, and enforcement.

In August of 2017, a net pen at Cooke’s Cypress Island fish farm col­lapsed, releas­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound. As a result, DNR ter­mi­nat­ed that lease. Cooke was fined $332,000 and found neg­li­gent by the state Depart­ment of Ecology.

In Decem­ber of 2017, DNR ter­mi­nat­ed Cooke’s Port Ange­les lease due to Cooke oper­at­ing in an unau­tho­rized area and fail­ing to main­tain the facil­i­ty in a safe con­di­tion. Cooke chal­lenged that ter­mi­na­tion in the supe­ri­or court and the lit­i­ga­tion is still pending.

The Wash­ing­ton state Leg­is­la­ture in 2018 phased out Atlantic salmon farm­ing, and the com­pa­ny since shift­ed oper­a­tions at its remain­ing lease­holds in Rich Pas­sage and Hope Island to grow ster­ile steel­head trout.

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One comment...

  1. Bet­ter late than nev­er! The hubris and cap­i­tal­ist lean­ings of the govt watch­dogs that should be look­ing out for the pub­lic com­mons seems to always over-ride com­mon sense. A great deci­sion. The emer­gent pow­er of sov­er­eign tribes here and in the fouled water­ways of BC to do the right thing, belat­ed­ly is much appre­ci­at­ed. Take a read of Not on My Watch by Alexan­dra Mor­ton if you need to under­stand the gory details of cor­po­rate tak­ing and prof­it while sad­dling the pub­lic, wild salmon and South­ern Res­i­dent Orcas with dis­as­trous ramifications.
    Thank you Ms Franz!

    Comment by Steve Ulvi on November 19, 2022 at 8:16 am

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