OLYMPIA – House Democrats have introduced new legislation that addresses the escape of nonnative fish populations, such as the Atlantic Salmon Net Pen accident that occurred last August. HB 2418 keeps the state on good legal footing for current contracts while creating a process to shut down contracts that don’t meet necessary requirements to keep native populations safe from contamination.
The proposal seeks to eliminate escapes completely by implementing an immediate moratorium on new or extensions of leases for net pens, to last at least two years. A new review and certification process is also implemented and the moratorium cannot be lifted until that process is complete. The review consists of permit and leasing requirement review by Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, and Ecology, with a final report to the legislature by October 31, 2018. Specifically, the review determines how the health and safety of Washington waters and marine ecosystems, Pacific salmon health and habitat, and tribal treaty fishing rights are protected. The review process requires agencies to certify that there are no negative impacts to those areas in order for a permit to be issued.
“The decision to put a hold on net pens doesn’t come lightly, because real jobs are at stake,” said Rep. Kristine Lytton, D-Anacortes, prime sponsor of the bill. “We have an obligation to keep Washington waters protected from nonnative populations and, unfortunately, that means tough choices. But those choices should be based on data and science, not on emotion. We can have a process that keeps our waters safe, while not unfairly punishing workers and businesses.”
Also part of the legislation, UW College of Oceanography will work with Western Washington University and Washington State University to conduct a detailed analysis of nonnative finfish aquaculture in Washington and determine any impact from the August net pen accident.
“None of us want to have Atlantic salmon farmed in our waters, but immediately pulling the rug out from under businesses who have contracts is going to result in immediate litigation and at a huge cost to taxpayers. Instead of picking winners and losers, this bill lets businesses determine their best course of action while the state keeps our waters protected,” said Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, co-sponsor of the legislation.