We at the Wild Steelhead Coalition are extremely disappointed that the Department of Fish and Wildlife has approved Cooke Aquaculture’s application to farm “steelhead” in Washington’s public waters. It is particularly concerning that WDFW failed to require a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) analysis, which Wild Steelhead Coalition and other groups and tribes requested. Given the disease, pollution and other risks associated with open-water fish farms, Endangered Species Act listings in place to protect Puget Sound’s native salmon and steelhead, and Cooke’s clear history of operational failures, we believe this application requires more thorough oversight.
With Canada recently announcing plans to phase out open-water fish farms in British Columbia by 2025, Washington is on track to become the only West Coast state or province still allowing these risky industrial operations in sensitive public waters, undermining native salmon and steelhead recovery efforts.
Critically, we’re calling on the state Department of Natural Resources, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and Governor Jay Inslee to deny the aquatic leases necessary for Cooke’s proposal to move forward. DNR’s mandate is to insure public benefits outweigh public risks from leases on public lands and waters; this proposal clearly does not meet that bar. We also expect the Department of Ecology to thoroughly scrutinize Cooke’s proposal in consideration of pollution impacts.
Washington tribes, agencies, non-profits and everyday citizens have worked for decades to clean up Puget Sound, and recover the wild fish, orca whales and priceless marine life that depends on these waters. For our state to continue to permit a Canadian corporation with a tarnished record to operate disaster-prone industrial fish farms in our marine waters would be a massive step backward.
Thousands of Washingtonians and the state legislature came together in 2018 to pass legislation phasing out Atlantic salmon fish farms. This was a clear expression of the people’s desire to prioritize our public waters and native fish over private polluters. The Department of Natural Resources, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, Governor Inslee and other elected leaders must heed the will of Washingtonians in blocking Cooke Aquaculture’s latest misguided fish farm proposal. A healthy, wild future for Puget Sound depends on it.