State shuts down Washington fish pens

A troubled fish pens facility owned by Cooke Aquaculture has been ordered to shut down following an order issued last Friday by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The facility, which houses some 700,000 fish off the coast of Port Angeles, had its lease terminated by DNR Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz due to outstanding concerns.

Carlo Davis, DNR communications director, said the site being shut down consisted of 14 pens.

The decision to close it stemmed from three major concerns, he said.

These included the anchors for the pens being located outside their leased area.

Two anchor chains were missing entirely, and a third was structurally compromised.

“This is a high-traffic area in close proximity to naval and Coast Guard docks and near a ferry,” he said.

Pen drifting could be hazardous to watercraft traffic, he said.

Another issue was an exposed styrofoam float, which the DNR said has been leaching into the water since at least 2015.

There are four open-water fish pen sites in Washington waters, and Cooke Aquaculture owns all of them.

Atlantic salmon are raised at these locations. Atlantic salmon are a non-native fish which can compete with local populations for resources environmentalists told the Redmond Reporter in previous coverage.

Franz directed a team to investigate the four Cooke facilities in the wake of an August incident where a fish pen off Cypress Island collapsed, releasing hundreds of thousands of invasive fish into Puget Sound.

Reviews of the other sites will be presented to the DNR in coming months.

While the pens are geographically removed from the Eastside, native salmon use the Sammamish Slough’s tributary streams as spawning grounds.

Native salmon populations have been decimated in recent decades, and conservationists worry that outbreaks of invasive fish species, like those which Cooke Aquaculture breeds, can wreak further havoc on an already weakened native population.

A key contention in the DNR notice to Cooke Aquaculture was the fact that when the international company purchased the facility in 2016, it was aware of the structural deficits which ultimately led to it being shuttered.

According to the Peninsula Daily News, the facility was previously owned by Icicle Seafoods.

An inspection in 2015 resulted in notices to Icicle Seafoods to fix the issues. When Cooke Aquaculture took over in 2016, they assumed the conditions of the lease and failed to make the repairs by the time of the most recent inspection this year.

“In the case of Port Angeles, I think there’s been — Cooke has shown a lack of disregard for maintaining the facility in a good and safe manner,” Davis said.

The Peninsula Daily News said Cooke Aquaculture was planning on replacing the facility with a larger one that could hold up to 900,000 fish.

However, Gov. Jay Inslee placed a moratorium on issuing new fish farm permits after the Cypress Island net pen broke.

Joel Richardson, vice president of public relations for Cooke Aquaculture, said they’re reviewing the information they received from the DNR.

“At this time, we’re contacting DNR to reach out to them to understand the terms of the notice and we’ll take it from there,” he said.

Richardson said some of the issues in the notice had already been addressed.

A press release issued by Cooke said the DNR had known about the anchors being outside of the lease area for 20 years and only raised the issue recently.

“We do not believe the DNR understood what we were aware of and in the process of addressing these items and we do not believe the facts support DNR’s decision to terminate the lease,” the release said.

However, Cooke’s time in Washington waters may be limited regardless.

State legislators are planning on introducing two bills in the upcoming session designed to shut down open-water fish pens.

The first would ban existing leases from being renewed, ending the practice by 2025 when the last lease expires.

According to the Seattle Times, two Republican state Representatives will propose a more direct bill to immediately terminate the leases.

Reps. Drew McEwan and Jim Walsh plan on filing the bill.

Cooke Aquaculture is a multi-national corporation based out of Canada which does business in the Americas, Europe and Asia.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@redmond-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.redmond-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

American Medical Response (AMR) organized a parade of first responders to show appreciation for St. Elizabeth Hospital staff April 30. Photo by Ray Miller-Still/Sound Publishing
The complications of counting COVID deaths in Washington

State relies on results of tests and death certificates in calculating the daily toll of the disease.

Republicans file lawsuit over Inslee’s emergency: ‘Facts, and the science, are clear’

Lawsuit says state has violated Constitutional rights of citizens.

How to report unemployment fraud

The Snoqualmie Police Department and the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD)… Continue reading

Among the candidates for Washington state governor in 2020: (Top row, L-R): Omari Tahir Garrett, Winston Wilkes, Thor Amundson, Cameron Vessey, Martin ‘Iceman’ Wheeler, Ryan Ryals; (middle row L-R): Liz Hallock, Goodspaceguy, Gov. Jay Inslee, Don Rivers, Gene Hart; (bottom row L-R): Phil Fortunato, Tim Eyman, Alex Tsimerman, Cairo D’Almeida, Cregan Newhouse, Raul Garcia.
GOP gubernatorial hopefuls aim to oust Inslee amid COVID-19

Former Bothell mayor Joshua Freed and initiative-pusher Tim Eyman could be the front-runners.

Nonprofit launches new online COVID-19 local resource hub for King County

Hub collects links for more than 300 local resources for people affected by virus.

The Regional Homelessness Authority was created by agreement in December 2019. Pictured: King County Executive Dow Constantine shakes hands with Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. Courtesy photo
Regional homelessness authority takes first step amid COVID-19

The authority held its first meeting on Thursday.

Detectives at the apartment where a 59-year-old Redmond resident was found dead, after an autopsy revealed a gunshot wound to the head, Saturday, May 16. Photo courtesy of Redmond Police Department.
Redmond police investigate suspicious death as homicide

Redmond woman, 59, was found in her apartment May 13. Then medical examiners discovered the gunshot wound.

Sound Transit to get $166.3 million federal grant for COVID-19 response

Funds for operating costs, maintenance, disinfecting vehicles and keeping drivers safe

Most Read