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Cooke’s Washington steelhead switch approved

Trout Regulations +3 more

Cooke Aquaculture has been granted permission to start growing steelhead at four of its former salmon sites in Washington State.

The switch to steelhead (sea-grown rainbow trout) has been deemed acceptable

The future of the company’s sites in Puget Sound had been called into question following a mass escape of Atlantic salmon in 2017 from its sites, which inspired a law that banned the farming of non-native species in the state. However, the State of Washington Department of Ecology has now approved a permit modification application from Cooke Aquaculture Pacific which makes it possible for the company to raise female, triploid steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) at four of these sites for a minimum of five years.

The decision has been applauded by the Northwest Aquaculture Alliance (NWAA). Executive director Jeanne McKnight noted that, in addition to the Department of Ecology’s review of water quality permits, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) previously spent one year analysing potential impacts to Puget Sound, during which WDFW analysed more than 150 studies on marine aquaculture. In the end, WDFW concluded that farming steelhead posed no significant risk to the marine environment.

“This decision is a victory, not only for science, but also for food security and job creation in rural areas,” said McKnight. “Despite the concerted misinformation campaign that some anti-aquaculture ENGO groups have waged against marine aquaculture, in the end, such groups failed to prove any negative impacts of fish farming on the marine environment. We appreciate the professionals who work for our state agencies for seeing past the misinformation campaign and letting science rule the day.”

“As an industry, aquaculture is a job-creator, bringing much-needed employment to rural areas where jobs are scarce. It also attracts a range of support businesses that also provide direct and indirect economic benefits. Giving the green light to Cooke to raise much-needed protein and to do so in a responsible manner is great news for the blue revolution – aquaculture – in this region.”

The decision will come as a blow the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, the Wild Fish Conservancy and Friends of the Earth, who formed a coalition that attempted to block WDFW's approval of Cooke's plans in November.