OLYMPIA – The state Senate passed a bill Feb. 8 to permanently ban commercial net pens used for farming invasive Atlantic salmon in Washington state waters.
SB 6086, sponsored by state Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, was approved 35-12 and now moves to the state House of Representatives for consideration.
“In the months since the escape of hundreds of thousands of invasive Atlantic salmon from the net pen failure, we have learned the extent of the mismanagement and negligence of Cooke Aquaculture,” Ranker said. “This sort of careless behavior is unacceptable for any company in Washington state. The state ban is a strong stance to ensure the protection of our marine environment and native salmon populations in the Salish Sea.”
Since Ranker introduced the legislation earlier this year, the Department of Ecology fined Cooke Aquaculture $332,000 for violating its Clean Water Act permit. And s state investigation found the company’s negligence caused the net pen collapse and escapement. The Department of Natural Resources, meanwhile, has cancelled two permits for Cooke Aquaculture operations in Port Angeles and Cypress Island.
Cooke Aquaculture also operates net pens in Rich Passage, off Bainbridge Island’s Fort Ward.
“It is no longer acceptable for the people of the state of Washington to expose our waters to the threats posed by non-native Atlantic salmon in net pens,” Gov. Jay Inslee said at his regular media session. “We need to transition and phase out the leases that now exist because this is a risk that is intolerable and unacceptable.”
Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Edmonds, said the bill takes “a critical step toward protecting the Puget Sound and the native species that call it home. Our economy, history and way of life are integrally linked with this delicate ecosystem. We must take the necessary actions to protect it.”