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Cooke faces Washington lawsuit

12 February 2020, at 10:31am

Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against Cooke Aquaculture’s plans to replace Atlantic salmon with steelhead in their cage farms in Washington State.

The lawsuit, filed by Friends of the Earth, Wild Fish Conservancy, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety, alleges that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife failed to adequately account for the dangers a permit issued to Cooke Aquaculture poses to federally protected species and the environment around the net pens. The permit would allow the company to raise domesticated steelhead in coastal net pens for five years.

The environmental groups claim that the decision "could have catastrophic impacts on the health of Puget Sound"
The environmental groups claim that the decision "could have catastrophic impacts on the health of Puget Sound"

“The state is legally obligated to protect the ecosystem and communities living and working near Puget Sound from irresponsible companies like Cooke Aquaculture,” said Hallie Templeton, Friends of the Earth’s senior oceans campaigner.“Despite its reckless release of non-native Atlantic salmon, Cooke is hoping to take advantage of loopholes to bypass protections implemented by Washington’s legislature. State officials have unlawfully ignored the harms of floating factory farms and instead greenlighted more environmental havoc in Puget Sound.”

After approximately 250,000 Atlantic salmon escaped from Cooke’s Cypress Island facility in 2017, the state swiftly passed a law banning net pen farming of non-native finfish by 2022. Cooke then applied to the state to change the type of species it could produce and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife issued the permit to Cooke Aquaculture in January 2020.

Washington is currently the only Pacific Coast state to allow coastal net pen fish farming.

Friends of the Earth, Wild Fish Conservancy, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety are represented by Kampmeier & Knutsen, PLLC in this matter.