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Cooke Aquaculture Pacific wants to raise sterile all-female Rainbow Trout; Comments due May 22

Applications to modify net pen permits Washington state Department of Ecology wants comments by May 22 regarding the applications from Cooke Aquaculture Pacific requesting to modify its existing National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits. The applications are for four Puget Sound net pens – three in Rich Passage in Kitsap County and one near Hope Island and Skagit County.

The company wants to raise all-female, sterile rainbow trout, also known as steelhead, which are native to Washington, instead of non-native Atlantic salmon. As steelhead are native to Washington, they are not part of the 2018 law phasing out non-native species in marine fish farming by 2022.

The law was passed after 263,000 atlantic farmed salmon escaped from an improperly maintained net pens at Cooke's fish farms at Cypress Island in August of 2017. 

Comments can be made on the applications and supporting documents. All documents can be found on Ecology's Salmon Net Pen Water Quality Individual Permits webpage.

Submitting written comments

The deadline for submitting public comments is 11:59 p.m. on May 22, 2020.

You can submit comments:

· Using the online comment form

· By mail:

Laurie Niewolny, Water Quality Program

Washington State Department of Ecology

P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA 98504

Multi-agency Process

Ecology follows the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW's) issuance of its Marine Aquaculture Permit allowing Cooke to farm this native salmon in Puget Sound. WDFW regulates ecological impacts of marine aquaculture to prevent disease and deleterious effects to wild fish stocks. The department's  role is to consider how the new species affects the discharges from the operation and what is required to protect water quality as a result. The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) provides state aquatic land leases to Cooke.

A decision by Ecology to modify the current permits will not extend the permit length, which expire in 2024. The permits were originally issued to allow for two years of closure activities and monitoring after Cooke’s aquatic lands leases from the Department of Natural Resources expire in 2022.

Next Steps

Following this application comment period, Ecology will review the public feedback make a determination on modifying the permits. If Ecology decides to modify the existing permits, drafts  will be made available for public review and feedback.

Questions? Laurie Niewolny email: Laurie.Niewolny@ecy.wa.gov Phone: 360-407-7666

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