Senate Bill 6086, sponsored by state Senator Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island) and 14 other senators, has passed the state Senate. The bill bans extending, renewing or issuing new leases for aquaculture of non-native finfish.
Cooke Aquaculture facility on Cypress Island. Photo from state Department of Natural Resources website.
"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," said Ranker, an Orcas Island Democrat. "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."
Following the release, the Department of Ecology fined Cooke Aquaculture $332,000 for violating its Clean Water Act permit and a 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 Angles and Cypress Island.
"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," said Gov. Jay Inslee 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."
“This bill takes a critical step toward protecting the Puget Sound and the native species that call it home,” said Sen. Maralyn Chase. “Our economy, history and way of life are integrally linked with this delicate ecosystem. We must take the necessary actions to protect it.”
The bill passed the senate 35-12. The state House of Representatives is expected to consider matching legislation.
Bill 6086 Digest:
Prohibits the department of natural resources from entering into a new lease, renewing or extending an existing lease, or other use authorization where the use includes marine finfish aquaculture of Atlantic salmon or other nonnative finfish.
Requires the department of fish and wildlife and the department of ecology to only authorize or permit marine finfish aquaculture of Atlantic salmon or other nonnative finfish where it is an authorized use under a lease of stateowned aquatic lands.
Prohibits the department of fish and wildlife and the department of ecology, for marine finfish aquaculture of Atlantic salmon or other nonnative finfish, from authorizing or permitting any of the activities or operations after the expiration date of the relevant lease of state-owned aquatic lands.
Requires the department of ecology, the department of natural resources, and the department of fish and wildlife to:
(1) Continue the existing effort to update guidance and informational resources to industry and governments for planning and permitting commercial marine net pen aquaculture; and
(2) In collaboration with other relevant agencies and participating tribes, conduct a study designed to understand the ecological impacts to Puget Sound native salmon stocks, and impacts to water quality and sediments, that resulted from the 2017 Atlantic salmon escapement.