Cooke Aquaculture Pacific’s Vice President of Public Relations, Joel Richardson, said: “We are deeply disappointed in the action taken by the Legislature today and the potential impact it could have on Washington’s 30-year salmon-farming industry and the more than 600 rural workers and their families that rely upon salmon farming for their livelihoods. Our employees remain our top priority, and we wish to extend our thanks and appreciation to the many lawmakers who have consistently advocated on their behalf during this process.
“As an immediate next step, Cooke Aquaculture Pacific will take the time we need to fully evaluate our operations and investments in Washington and explore all our available options, ensuring that any decision we ultimately make places our employees and their families first."
Callander McDowell point to the fickle nature of the politic behind the ban.
“The main message emanating from this blinkered decision is that it should be a massive wake up to the salmon farming industry everywhere that their existence is not a given,” the consultants observe.
The UK-based firm believe that Cooke Aquaculture Pacific, which runs all the state's salmon farms, should consider farming a different species in its Washington cages - sites which marked a $76 million investment for the company when they purchased them from Icicle Seafoods in 2016.
“We have not read the exact legislation but in response Cooke Aquaculture should use their sea cages to grow large trout. There is clearly a market for portion sized ‘sea’ trout,” they argue.
House Bill 2957 bans new leases to non-native net pen operations and prohibits the renewal of existing leases. Before becoming law, HB 2957 must be signed by Governor Inslee, who recently announced his full support for the bill.
The move follows an incident in August in which more than 263,000 Atlantic salmon escaped from a Cooke Aquaculture farm into Puget Sound. Cooke have been accused of “significantly misrepresenting” vital facts about the incident – including the cause of the incident and the actual number of escaped fish. In the aftermath of the spill, state officials have proactively terminated leases for two of Cooke’s facilities.
NGOs, on the other hand, have hailed the decision as “a victory for our oceans”.
Hallie Templeton, senior oceans campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: “The phasing out of industrial ocean fish farms in Washington is a victory for our oceans and coastal communities. These floating factory farms pose significant environmental and socioeconomic risks and threaten our already struggling wild, native salmon.”
“We commend the Washington State legislature for its passage of this bill, and urge swift approval by the governor so that Washington can finally join its neighbouring states along the Pacific in banning this destructive industry,” she added.