Cooke Aquaculture focus of salmon farm ban in Washington State

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Health, environmental threats focus of legislative efforts

Washington State Sen. Kevin Van De Wege reported Jan 15 that open net pen aquaculture is one of three primary “serious threats to our health and environment”, something which became clear in the massive escapes of farmed salmon into Puget Sound last month from poorly maintained salmon pens owned and operated by New Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture.

Critics of such farms say that non-native salmon are an invasive species that could disrupt the health and sustainability of the area’s native wild salmon, and that the use of net pens releases unhealthy levels of fecal matter and antibiotics into area waters.

Van De Wege chairs the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee and has co-sponsored Senate Bill 6086, which would prohibit new fish pen licenses and increase oversight of existing operations with the ultimate goal of eventually shutting them down. The bill was heard Thursday by his committee, which recommended a pass and forwarded it to the Ways and Means Committee.

In the House, Chapman and Tharinger are co-sponsoring House Bill 2418, which would delay construction of non-native fish aquaculture facilities until studies and analysis are complete.

A public hearing on HB 2418 is scheduled for Thursday with the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Van De Wege and Chapman are expected to provide information about legislation concerning net pens at a public meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. Jan 19 at the Sequim City Transit Center, 190 W. Cedar St.

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