Washington’s Inslee signs salmon pen ban into law

As expected, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bipartisan bill passed by the state Legislature early this month that phases out Atlantic salmon net pens by 2025.

Conservative activist Tim Eyman is collecting signatures to challenge the bill in a voter initiative. He would need to get 130,000 signatures from voters registered in Washington state in order to get an initiative on the November ballot.

Cooke Aquaculture is also exploring its options, which include finding a way to recoup its investment in the infrastructure it bought from Icicle Seafoods in 2016, including nine salmon farming sites in the state.

Meanwhile, the fervor to ban salmon net pens stretches north to Canada. This week, Washington tribes and First Nations representatives from Canada jointly endorsed a declaration for the shutdown of all salmon net-pen farming on the West Coast, where many believe the nonnative species threatens native Pacific salmon.

The impetus for the ban is the catastrophic failure of a Cooke Aquaculture pen near Cypress Island, Wash., on Sunday, Aug. 20. The pen contained 305,000 Atlantic salmon that were just about ready for market at 10 pounds each, making for more than 3 million pounds of invasive fish teeming at the edges of wild salmon territory.

In February, both houses of the state Legislature passed bills banning the practice of salmon pen farming, and openly supported the legislation. On Friday, the Washington house and senate negotiated the discrepancies in those bills to finalize a ban they could pass to the governor’s desk. The bipartisan Senate vote was 31-16.

Before the final votes, Cooke Aquaculture CEO and Founder Glen Cooke made last-minute appeals to state lawmakers in person. A collective of leading marine scientists also penned an open letter to the Legislature in defense of the salmon farming industry.

About the author

Jessica Hathaway

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 12 years, worked in maritime publishing for 17, and has served on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Communications Committee for two years.

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