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Cooke blamed massive escape of salmon from damaged net pens in Washington state on “exceptionally high tides and currents.” NOAA says high tide was no higher than the weeks prior.

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A net pen failure of the shore of Cypress Island dumped an unknown quantity of Atlantic salmon into the Salish Sea on Aug. 20. The nearly 30-year-old fish farm, which was showing signs of damage the day before, held 305,000 salmon, according to the farm’s owner, Canadian multi-national industrial salmon farmer Cooke Aquaculture. The company, which boasts net revenues exceeding $1.5 billion, purchased salmon farms located on Bainbridge Island, Cypress Island, Port Angeles and Hope Island a year ago.

In the days following the collapse, the Lummi Nation declared a state of emergency, fearing that impact that the invasive salmon could have on native salmon populations. Tribe leaders encouraged their fishers to catch as many Atlantic salmon that they could, but warned against eating them, unsure of the health risks.

Cooke Aquaculture blamed the damage done to the net pens on “exceptionally high tides and currents,” in relation to Monday, Aug. 21’s solar eclipse. However,preliminary tidal data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s  Friday Harbor station indicated that the high tide was no higher than the weeks prior.

“It’s a totally unacceptable situation that was preventable, and I’m doing everything in my power to make sure it never happens again,” Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas, said. “I will very likely be introducing legislation trying to address this in the future.”

Unrelated to the fish farm failure, in December, the Washington State Department of Ecology issued Cooke an $8,000 penalty for violating state law. Additionally Cooke was required to immediately stop allowing pressure washing wastewater to enter Puget Sound.

Also in December, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz terminated Cooke’s net pen operations off the shore of Port Angeles.

The Department of Natural Resources said it discovered that Cooke’s net pens were in an unauthorized area and that Cooke failed to maintain the facility in a safe condition and failed to replace unencapsulated flotation material to prevent styrofoam from disintegrating into the water.