Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has instructed the state Department of Ecology to put a hold on permits for new salmon farm net pens after thousands of farmed Atlantic salmon escaped from a Cooke Aquaculture operation near Cypress Island, north of Anacortes, Wash., on Aug. 20.
It’s not clear how many farmed salmon escaped into Puget Sound, but officials say the collapsed pens held about 305,000 fish. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife quickly urged all fishermen to fish the escaped population, with no limit on size or number.
“The release of net pen-raised Atlantic salmon into Washington’s waters has created an emergency situation that has state agencies working together to protect the health of our salmon,” Inslee said in a statement on Saturday.
According to an AP report, state officials also announced the formation of a response team including members of the departments of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, and Ecology, the Office of the Governor and state Emergency Management Division.
“Incident Command resources from all three agencies will begin to arrive in Anacortes today,” state officials said in a separate statement also released on Saturday.
Inslee said Cooke Aquaculture has been instructed to stop additional escapes, recover escaped fish and compensate fishermen — commercial and recreational — working to capture the escaped fish.
According to Incident Command spokeswoman Cori Simmons, Cooke Aquaculture has been working on the cleanup of the damaged net pens, but there is still no count of escaped fish.