Washington tribe tests its rights to commercial net pen fish farming | KNKX Public Radio

An executive order from a Washington state agency earlier this month aims to end commercial net pen fish farming in public waters. Cooke Aquaculture is being forced to shut down its operations, but it has a key partner in its fight to remain. The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe is forging ahead with its net pen aquaculture plans, testing a carve-out clause in the order.
— Read on www.knkx.org/environment/2022-12-01/washington-tribe-tests-its-rights-to-commercial-net-pen-fish-farming

What you should know about Industrial Raised Shellfish Aquaculture: An overview

Kristina Sinclair gave a presentation to the Protect the Peninsula’s Future’s (PPF) meeting last night. I share her presentation with you with her permission. The questions that this presentation raises are many. What is the limit to these operations on our beaches? How much of the Sound and Hood Canal do we the people of this State want to see turned into the images in this presentation? Since 2000 the State has engaged in a promotion of commercial geoduck aquaculture for the profit of a small number of companies selling almost entirely to China. Do we want this to continue unabated? Can we expect local state and federal legislators who receive significant political contributions from these businesses to make changes on our behalf? Without considerable public outcry this will continue. Watch this slideshow, look at the map and you make up your mind.


Kristina Sinclair is an Associate Attorney at the Center for Food Safety (CFS), where she focuses on environmental cases challenging industrial agriculture, including commercial shellfish.

Kristina earned her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. While in law school, Kristina was an Articles Editor for the California Law Review. She also participated in the Environmental Law Clinic, served on the steering committee for Students for Economic and Environmental Justice, and worked as a teaching assistant for Appellate Advocacy. Upon graduation, she received recognition for her pro bono work and a Certificate of Specialization in Environmental Law.

Since joining CFS, Kristina has been working on a lawsuit challenging highly disruptive industrial shellfish operations in Washington. In this case, CFS and Coalition to Protect Puget Sound allege that the U.S. Army Corps (USACE) failed to properly consider the potential risks before reissuing the nationwide permit for commercial shellfish activities in January 2021, in violation of the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Endangered Species Act. In addition, USACE has authorized over 400 commercial shellfish operations without any public notice or environment review. Consequently, these operations have significant adverse effects on Washington’s local environment and wildlife.  In this presentation Kristina provides an overview of USACE’s shellfish permitting requirements, as well as the ongoing litigation challenging USACE’s unlawful shellfish permitting actions. She also shares some insights from this legal work and potential opportunities for future advocacy.  

  • Background on USACE’s Permitting Requirements
  • History of USACE’s Unlawful Permitting Actions in Washington
  • Previous Case
  • Current Case
  • Future Opportunities

Interactive map of Industrial Shellfish Aquaculture in Puget Sound & Hood Canal.

Below is the PDF of the Slideshow. It is over 4MBs so it might load slow on a slow link.

Dept. of Nat. Resources Bans Future Net Pen Aquaculture – Major Win for Environmentalists, Tribes, Salmon & Orcas.

Today, Washington’s Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz made history when she announced a new groundbreaking executive order that will prohibit commercial net pen aquaculture in Washington state marine waters. During the press conference, a question about the net pen proposed by the joint business venture of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and Cooke Aquaculture to create a net pen to farm Black Cod (Sablefish) was deflected with a mention that Commissioner Franz had been in discussions with them on this issue. It was not clear whether they were not going to be allowed to put the pen in under the Tribe’s name or not. Franz also mentioned that upland farming of salmon would likely be approved by DNR. The industry has long stated that this method is not commercially viable at this time.

This ends a long history of industry “spokespeople”, who have been involved with Marine Resources Committees both in Clallam and Jefferson Counties, touting the benefits of these pens and disrupting anyone coming forward to raise concerns, such as when Professor Dill, a researcher from a distinguished Canadian University came to Port Angeles a few years ago to discuss his scientifically based concerns and was shouted down by industry representatives.

While Commissioner Franz’ concerns about ending destruction of the near shore by these farms could easily be carried over to the nearshore beach destruction by industrial geoduck operations over thousands of acres of beaches throughout the Sound and Hood Canal, there was no discussion of that issue today.

This blog has been a long time critic of Commissioner Franz, due to her seemingly lack of concern over industrial aquaculture in our waters. We welcome and thank her for finally taking strong legal action on this issue. It has been viewed both here on the West Coast, nationally and internationally as a major step towards recovering and protecting our waters.

Press Release from the Wild Fish Conservancy, the major group working to end this policy.



“This new policy was announced earlier today by Commissioner Franz at a press conference on Bainbridge Island overlooking the Rich Passage net pens alongside leaders from Wild Fish Conservancy and Suquamish Tribe. The news comes on the heels of another long-awaited and widely-supported decision announced earlier this week by Commissioner Franz that DNR has refused new decade-long leases to global seafood giant Cooke Aquaculture to continue operating commercial net pens in Puget Sound.

“After the incredible news announced earlier this week, it is almost impossible to believe we are now celebrating an even bigger, groundbreaking victory for our wild salmon, orcas, and the health of Puget Sound,” said Emma Helverson, Executive Director of Wild Fish Conservancy. “By denying new leases to Cooke and bringing forward this comprehensive, bold new policy to prevent commercial net pens from ever operating in Washington marine waters again, Commissioner Franz is ensuring Puget Sound will be protected, not just now, but far into the future for the benefit of generations to come.”

Together, the lease denial and executive order will require Cooke to remove all of their net pen facilities from Puget Sound before the end of year, marking the end of the commercial net pen industry that has operated in Washington state for over 40 years. The benefits of these actions for the recovery of wild fish, water quality, and the greater health of Puget Sound cannot be overstated. Immediately, this action will cease chronic untreated pollution that has been discharged daily at these aquatic sites for over forty years. Finally, these heavily polluted and degraded sites will have the opportunity to heal and begin the process of natural restoration as part of the largest passive restoration project in Washington State.

The decision will also eliminate many major risk factors that harm the recovery of wild salmon and steelhead, including ending the risk of exposure to viruses, parasites, and diseases that are amplified and spread at unnatural levels by massive densities of farmed fish and the risk of future catastrophic escape events in which farmed fish could compete with, attempt to interbreed, or spread pathogens to threatened and endangered wild fish.


DNR’s decision will also restore the public and Tribal access to over 130 acres of Puget Sound that have been restricted by this industry for over forty years. More broadly, Washington’s decision will unite the entire U.S. Pacific Coast in excluding this industry from marine waters. Combined with Canada’s recent commitment to transition open water net pens out of British Columbia waters, this decision also has the potential to eliminate a major limiting factor to wild Pacific salmon recovery at a coastwide, international scale.


“After the news earlier this week, we’ve heard from colleagues all around the world in places like Chile, Tasmania, Scotland, and so many others working to protect their own public waters from the environmental harm of commercial net pen aquaculture,” says Helverson. “Today’s historic decision is setting a new standard that will serve as a model and rallying cry to bolster the efforts of communities and governments around the world working toward this same end and we stand committed to leveraging our massive success to support their efforts.”


Cooke is the same company found at fault for the catastrophic 2017 Cypress Island net pen collapse that released over 260,000 nonnative and viral-infected Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound. Cooke purchased all of Washington’s net pen facilities in 2016 with plans to expand exponentially in Washington waters.

In response to this expansion plan, Wild Fish Conservancy launched the Our Sound, Our Salmon (OSOS) campaign in April 2017 to raise public awareness about the environmental impacts of commercial net pen aquaculture. In 2018, a coalition of over 10,000 individuals and hundreds of businesses and organizations under the banner of OSOS, worked in concert with Tribal efforts, to advocate for Washington’s landmark law banning nonnative Atlantic salmon aquaculture.

In July 2020, in response to Cooke avoiding the ban by transitioning to native species, the OSOS campaign launched a new initiative, Taking Back Our Sound, with the goal of preventing Cooke from receiving new leases. Through this effort, 9,000 individuals and 127 business and organizations called on DNR’s Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz through a petition and direct actions, which included a Bainbridge Island city resolution, to deny new leases to Cooke and to restore Puget Sound for the benefit and use of all. In making her decision over Cooke’s lease request, DNR was required by statute to issue a decision in the best interest of the public.
“It’s clear this victory for wild salmon, orcas, and Puget Sound belongs to no one person or group. Without the separate actions of thousands of individuals, Washington’s Tribal Nations, businesses, organizations, chefs, fishing groups, scientists, elected officials, and so many others working together over the last five years, this would never have been possible,” says Helverson. “It is truly inspiring to see what is possible when the public unifies their voices and works together with the law and science on their side toward the shared goal of a healthier Puget Sound.”

‘Do You Really Want to Rebuild at 80?’ Rethinking Where to Retire. -NY Times

We are finally starting to see these stories about climate change affecting home buying decisions in the mainstream press. While this is behind today’s NY Times paywall, you likely can find the full story in your local library.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/18/business/where-to-retire-climate-change.html?searchResultPosition=1

It’s a small yet noticeable shift, experts say — but climate change is causing retirees to start reconsidering moves to disaster-prone dream locales.

WA Dept of Natural Resources Cancels Leases for Remaining Net Pen Salmon Farms in Puget Sound

While many are glad to see this long-awaited decision, it is by no means the end of Cook Aquaculture and its efforts to farm fish here. But if they indeed do remove the Rich Passage net pen, it could be good news for the remaining salmon that run through Orchard Rocks off southern Bainbridge Island. Why? Because it has never been fully investigated as to whether this net pen was partially responsible for the collapse of the salmon run through the passage and Agate Pass. Given recent news that the Hood Canal Floating Bridge may be a significant cause of salmon collapse in Hood Canal, and the hunch by some old fishermen that stocks collapsed after the net pen in Rich Passage went in, anything is possible. Obviously, shoreline development in the area at that time also had a good deal to do with the salmon loss.

A reminder to all that Cooke still has a business agreement with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and the two are rearing Black Cod (Sablefish) in Port Angeles harbor. My guess is that Cooke will look for additional opportunities like this and will approach other tribes if they haven’t already. Still to come, is understanding how the recent unanimous Supreme Court ruling may affect this decision. Will Cooke and allies sue in court, based on their previous win? I don’t think this is as over as it seems, but for now, it’s a good decision, long overdue.


Official Press Release:

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has ended the remaining two finfish net pen aquaculture leases on Washington’s state-owned aquatic lands.

DNR officials informed Cooke Aquaculture Monday that the agency will not renew expired leases for the two remaining finfish net pen aquaculture facilities in Washington; in Rich Passage off Bainbridge Island and off Hope Island in Skagit Bay.

“Since the catastrophic Cypress Island net pen collapse in 2017, I have stood tall to defend the waters of Puget Sound,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “This effort began by terminating finfish net pen operations due to lease violations. Despite years of litigation – and a company that has fought us every step of the way – we are now able to deny lease renewals for the remaining net pen sites. Today, we are returning our waters to wild fish and natural habitat. Today, we are freeing Puget Sound of enclosed cages.”

“This is a critical step to support our waters, fishermen, tribes, and the native salmon that we are so ferociously fighting to save,” said Commissioner Franz.

DNR’s denial of Cooke Aquaculture’s request to re-lease the sites to continue finfish net pen aquaculture gives the company until December 14 to finish operations and begin removing its facilities and repairing any environmental damage.

The Hope Island lease expired in March and has been in month-to-month holdover status since. The Rich Passage lease expired in November.

Decision Draws Support

Salish tribes and conservation groups hailed the decision as a step toward protecting the habitat of struggling stocks of native salmon.

“We are very pleased that Commissioner Franz rejected Cooke Aquaculture’s lease application. Removal of the existing net pen will restore full access to the Tribe’s culturally important fishing area in northern Skagit Bay. Swinomish are the People of the Salmon, and fishing has been our way of life since time immemorial. Cooke’s net pens have interfered with the exercise of our treaty rights for far too long. We look forward to the day when the Hope Island net pen facility will be a distant memory,” said Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Chairman Steve Edwards.

“This decision is a joyous and historic victory for the recovery of wild fish, orcas, and the health of Puget Sound,” says Emma Helverson, Executive Director of Wild Fish Conservancy. “For years, the public has overwhelmingly called for an end to this dangerous industry in our public waters. Commissioner Franz’s response proves she is both accountable to the public and dedicated to protecting Puget Sound’s irreplaceable public heritage for current and future generations.”

“We say, ‘the table is set when the tide goes out.’ Seafoods have always been a staple of Samish diet and traditions,” said Tom Wooten, Samish Indian Nation Chairman. “By removing the Sound’s remaining net pens, our delicate ecosystem now gets a chance to replenish, repair and heal. We are grateful and lift our hands to the DNR’s partnership in helping protect the Salish Sea that tie us to our history and culture.”

Denials End Saga Started by 2017 Collapse

Cooke Aquaculture had previously leased four sites for net pen aquaculture from the Department of Natural Resources, recently growing steelhead trout in the net pens after years of using them to grow Atlantic salmon.

DNR’s letters denying an extension of Cooke’s leases lists several areas where the firm violated terms of the leases. DNR determined that allowing Cooke to continue operations posed risks of environmental harm to state-owned aquatic lands resulting from lack of adherence to lease provisions and increased costs to DNR associated with contract compliance, monitoring, and enforcement.

In August of 2017, a net pen at Cooke’s Cypress Island fish farm collapsed, releasing hundreds of thousands of Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound. As a result, DNR terminated that lease. Cooke was fined $332,000 and found negligent by the state Department of Ecology. The net pens were removed in 2018.

In December of 2017, DNR terminated Cooke’s Port Angeles lease due to Cooke operating in an unauthorized area and failing to maintain the facility in a safe condition. Cooke challenged that termination in the superior court and that litigation is still pending.

The Washington state Legislature in 2018 phased out Atlantic salmon farming, and the company since shifted operations at its remaining leaseholds in Rich Passage and Hope Island to grow sterile steelhead trout.

Future Net Pen Policy will be Announced Friday

Following the denials of these lease renewals, Commissioner Franz is reviewing policies for net pen salmon aquaculture throughout Washington’s state-owned aquatic lands, and will announce this decision at a press conference alongside partners and tribes at 11 a.m. Friday, November 18, on Bainbridge Island.

Seattle Times article (Behind paywall)

WA will not renew leases for Puget Sound fish farms, 5 years after spill | The Seattle Times

Public meeting set for carbon sequestration program -PDN

This is behind a paywall.
Jefferson County commissioners have questions about how inclusion in a proposed state carbon sequestration program would affect beneficiaries of state trust lands, among other concerns.

A public meeting is planned from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 30 to allow county commissioners gather more information about the potential impacts of the program. It will be conducted at Jefferson County Library, 620 Cedar Ave., Port Hadlock. Peter Segall reports. (Peninsula Daily News)

EVENT: Join Protect the Peninsula’s Future for its 49th Year Celebration (Virtual) 

The PPF has been spearheading environmental challenges to the most difficult problems we have faced: a nuclear power plant on Miller Peninsula, Northern Tier pipeline that would have gone in right off Protection Island, and more recently, the ever-growing industrial shellfish industry and their often illegally permitted farms, as proven in a court case against the Army Corps of Engineers.

Thursday, November 17, 7:00 PM        RSVP to PPF@olympus.net to receive the Zoom connection*

Our featured speaker this year is Kristina Sinclair, Associate Attorney at the Center for Food Safety

Topic: “What You Should Know About Industrial Raised Shellfish

*Space is limited to 100.

Kristina Sinclair is an Associate Attorney at the Center for Food Safety (CFS), where she focuses on environmental cases challenging industrial agriculture, including commercial shellfish.

Kristina earned her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. While in law school, Kristina was an Articles Editor for the California Law Review. She also participated in the Environmental Law Clinic, served on the steering committee for Students for Economic and Environmental Justice, and worked as a teaching assistant for Appellate Advocacy. Upon graduation, she received recognition for her pro bono work and a Certificate of Specialization in Environmental Law.

Webinar: Since joining CFS, Kristina has been working on a lawsuit challenging highly disruptive industrial shellfish operations in Washington. In this case, CFS and Coalition to Protect Puget Sound allege that the U.S. Army Corps (USACE) failed to properly consider the potential risks before reissuing the nationwide permit for commercial shellfish activities in January 2021, in violation of the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Endangered Species Act. In addition, USACE has authorized over 400 commercial shellfish operations without any public notice or environment review. Consequently, these operations have significant adverse, effects on Washington’s local environment and wildlife.  In this webinar, Kristina will provide an overview of USACE’s shellfish permitting requirements, as well as the ongoing litigation challenging USACE’s unlawful shellfish permitting actions. She will also share some insights from this legal work and potential opportunities for future advocacy.  

  • Background on USACE’s Permitting Requirements
  • History of USACE’s Unlawful Permitting Actions in Washington
  • Previous Case
  • Current Case
  • Future Opportunities

NOAA funds research into ocean conditions -PDN

The PDN continues its good coverage of environmental issues on the peninsula.

Dangerously low oxygen levels are killing Dungeness crabs off the Pacific Coast and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration is awarding $4.2 million over the next four years to research how ocean environments are changing. Peter Segall reports.

NOAA funds research into ocean conditions | Peninsula Daily News

New Book: How Dare We? Courageous Practices to Reclaim Our Power as Citizens

Activist Paul Cienfuegos has written a new book. I think you readers will like it. I’ll be getting a copy myself soon. Would be great to have some organization get him up to the Peninsula to discuss this book. He is interviewed about the book, here.

Questions for you the reader in this book. All too familiar scenarios, huh?

Do you care deeply about the state of our society, and don’t see yourself as an activist, but want to do something powerful to make a difference? Or maybe you are an activist and are feeling frustrated that your efforts aren’t bearing fruit?

This book is for you!

No more pleading with government and corporate power-holders who don’t care what you think.

No more testifying at public hearings where the law requires that they ask for public input but the decision has already been made.

It’s time to break out of the “cage of allowable activism” and learn how We the People can become a more powerful force for good. (Yes, you belong to that group!)

Don’t give up. It’s not hopeless. Read this book and get more active in a way that brings real change!

You can buy the book from your local bookstore, or if you don’t have a bookstore nearby, order from our friends at Couth Buzzard in Seattle. They can use your business!

Couth Buzzard:

Phone: (206) 436-2960. Someone will be present during business hours to take your call. Outside of these hours, please feel free to leave a message and callback number.

E-mail: Please contact couthbuzzard@gmail.com. Include name, address, phone number, and the titles you are interested in. We will reply as soon as possible.

Online Form: Visit couthbuzzard.com/orderonline and enter pertinent information. You may schedule an in-store pickup or direct shipment for used or new books, but we are only able to ship new books at this time.

Residents still oppose Miller State park plan  – PDN

This is becoming a problematic issue…


As Washington State parks officials continue to consider plans for Miller Peninsula State Park, property neighbors, park users and other Olympic Peninsula residents continue to express their concerns. State officials held what turned into a town hall-style meeting Tuesday — a gathering that drew more than 200 attendees to a 7 Cedars Resort meeting room in Blyn. Michael Dashiell reports. (Peninsula Daily News) 

Groups working to remove thousands of tires from Puget Sound – KOMO

Good work being done by WSA.


The Washington Scuba Alliance (WSA) has teamed up with Coastal Sensing and Survey to locate 500,000 tires that were put underwater in Puget Sounds and Hood Canal in the 70s to create fish habitat. The organization said a recent study revealed the decomposing tires are poisoning sea life including Coho salmon. Karina Vargas reports. (KOMO) 

Oceans are warming faster than ever. Here’s what could come next. – Washington Post


As the forests of the west coast continue to burn, causing hospitals to fill (here in PT) and millions of acres to be lost for a generation, there is also another threat happening in the oceans at our door. We need politicians to take this seriously, and not kick the can down the road. This is climate change happening right now. Vote as if your children’s lives depend on it. They do.

The world’s oceans have been warming for generations, a trend that is accelerating and threatens to fuel more supercharged storms, devastate marine ecosystems and upend the lives and livelihoods of millions of people, according to a new scientific analysis. Brady Dennis reports. (Washington Post) 

Voting recommendations for environmental protection

The ballots will arrive soon. We have an easy choice to stay the course with legislators who have long time environmental records showing support for positive environmental change and programs. I am a pragmatist. I look at what the politician delivered. I don’t hold them to some impossible standards of perfection. The situation of politics in this country is what it is. Deal with it and vote for people who deliver for the environment. The following current holders of these positions have done their job passing legislation that are making a difference. I am unwilling to change any of these people for unknown quantities, especially given the proven disinterest and disbelief of scientific concerns by the Republican party when it comes to climate change. Here are my recommendations based on tracking of politicians’ words/deeds or stated beliefs over the past years.

U.S.Senator – Patty Murray

U.S. House of Representative – Derek Kilmer

State Representative – 24th District Position 1 – Mike Chapman

State Representative – 24th District Position 2 – Steve Tharinger

Jefferson County Commissioner District 3 – Greg Brotherton

In looking at the Democrats, it is important to review accomplishments. Let’s focus on that for a moment. Biden and the Democrats have passed the largest investment in history to combat climate change. $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure investment that funded environmental priorities. This is not trivial.

Also:

ACA health care plan and opened healthcare records in their entirety to patients.
Appointed 41 federal judges that often decide on environmental issues.
$1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief and vax plans.

Also passed the PACT Act for veterans’ health care and the most significant gun safety reform in 30 years. We have seen huge job growth coming off the pandemic—jobless claims are at their lowest in 50 years. Among many ways of supporting American industry the Democrats have passed the CHIPS Act for bringing microchip jobs home.

The situation of the economy is horrible, but no politician of either stripe is going to fix the Ukraine war, the price of gas from the Saudis’, or the lack of immigrant labor driving up labor costs across the country. The Democrats have a great track record in solving problems in economic crisis. Let’s let them have another two years to work on it.

Ultimately, we also need to remember that President Biden needs to maintain control of the House and Senate in order to appoint Supreme Court justices that support environmental protections over industry profits. And he supports a woman’s right to choose. Our choices will help achieve those goals. .

Vote in November.

EVENT: Sierra Club Invites local politicians to discuss issues – October 20th

Monthly Meeting to Hear From Sequim and Jefferson County Elected Officials

October 20th at 7PM on Zoom, RSVP RequiredThe Sierra Club likes to hear from elected environmental champions how they are working ro protect the environment.  This month we’ll hear from two: Lowell Rathbun of the Sequim City Council and 

Heidi Eisenhour, Jefferson County Commissioner.  Join us to find out what they view as the most pressing environmental concerns and use this event as an opportunity to voice some of your own.  
RSVP Here:
https://act.sierraclub.org/events/details?formcampaignid=7013q000002GME9AAO

$1B up for grabs to help salmon get to where they’re going – KUOW

Continued funding of efforts to reverse 100+ years of destruction of our salmon streams. Removal of culverts is critical to any hope of restoring wild salmon. These are real jobs for blue collar people on the Peninsula. Much better use of our federal funds than funding many other non critical issues.


U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announce a $1 billion program to help save the region’s salmon while visiting Washington state Thursday…Salmon need to travel up rivers to spawn. A lot of them don’t make it because culverts get in the way. Culverts are like tunnels that let streams pass under roadways. Many were installed decades ago. While they allow water to pass through, they don’t work as well for salmon. The new program will help pay to improve or replace culverts in the region. A total of $1 billion is available over five years thanks to the “National Culvert Removal, Replacement and Restoration-Culvert Aquatic Organism Passage Program.” Applications are open for tribal, state, and local governments. David Hyde reports. 

(KUOW) 

Study raises questions about using ‘woody debris’ to restore streams -Salish Currents

Some of the woody debris projects work, some don’t. The reasons why are not yet known.


“Efforts to improve salmon streams damaged by past logging and other human activities commonly include the addition of carefully placed logs, tree roots or “woody debris” to mimic this natural system. But a new report raises questions about the value of adding wood to streams — at least in the way it has been done in many restoration projects.”. Chris Dunagan reports. (Salish Sea Currents)

Net Pen Aquaculture in Puget Sound? A Risk Too High

What if a single mega-corporation polluted Puget Sound with as much untreated waste as the cities of Port Angeles, Bellingham, Everett and Tacoma combined? Would you agree that’s wrong? What if that industry’s products were so plagued with disease that it routinely spreads lethal viruses and parasites to the very wild salmon we are all so concerned about? What if an unknown amount of the farmed fish sold at grocery stores was infected with viruses, would you feel safe eating it? And what if, without knowing it, you were also consuming fish antibiotics, growth hormones, anti-parasitics, and other compounds?

What if you learned that this industry continues to discard into Puget Sound each day, large amounts of fish sewage, carcass leachate, blood water, drug-laced feed, dead fouling organisms, heavy metals, and marine debris–often in violation of its permit, and apparently undeterred after a long history of violations and fines? Would you find that acceptable year after year? A new report from the Olympic Forest Coalition gives the details.

While most people would agree that feeding a hungry world is necessary and good, most would also agree that damaging or destroying natural ecosystems (or bending regulations) in order to do so is bad – and, with the aquaculture industry, completely unnecessary. Aquaculture is considered an essential way to produce protein for humanity, a “blue economy” defined as “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystems.” But aquaculture in the form of net pens in ocean water has proven to be a double-edged sword for Puget Sound, with significant impacts in the absence of conscientious oversight and ethical management.

Suppose after a catastrophic accident caused by poor maintenance, that you had the authority to cancel the industry’s lease of submerged public lands. More than 250,000 diseased salmon escaped, but the industry sued you for canceling its lease. Though the court sided with your decision time after time, what if five years later the industry is still forcing you to spend more money on lawyers and court costs? When I use the word “you,” it’s not a hypothetical, because you as a Washington taxpayer are paying for this.

What if more sustainable alternatives to this industry’s practices exist, but the will hasn’t yet been summoned to turn to them?

That is precisely the pickle Washington State is in right now. Behaviors like those of Cooke Aquaculture, the company that owns these fish farms, have been likened in a newly-published book to “our generation’s version of Big Tobacco.” The report by the Olympic Forest Coalition gives the details on what is briefly mentioned here. If your reading time is limited, you may find the Timeline most compelling.

A history of agency bungling, lax oversight, inadequate enforcement, and fines that aren’t enough to be disincentives has affected the public’s trust of the very government agencies that should be better at protecting us by reining in such a highly polluting industry. Does Washington State lack the legal grounds that more legislation could remedy? Maybe. Does the will exist to truly fix the problem? Apparently not. Because after the gigantic diseased fish spill and passage of a state law in 2018 banning the raising of non-native fish in net pens in Puget Sound, Cooke Aquaculture immediately applied to raise native steelhead trout, albeit genetically manipulated, without any indication that it was correcting its well-known deficiencies.

And then, despite a contentious process in which a knowledgeable public overwhelmingly opposed the granting of this new permit to Cooke, the State Department of Ecology (DOE) granted them a five-year license anyway. A lawsuit over that poor public process went all the way to the State Supreme Court. Unfortunately for Puget Sound, it was decided in favor of Cooke on such narrow grounds that the cumulative impacts of all that pollution, as well as the intense public opposition, were all but ignored. So, the viruses may now be different for steelhead, but the fish waste, antibiotics, fouling, debris, escaped fish and other pollutants will continue as long as the leases on those submerged lands are in effect. And this is where DNR comes in, because of Cooke’s leases are all expiring.

What’s next? Washington is at a major decision point. While Cooke wants new leases, the advocacy group Wild Fish Conservancy has also applied for them, with the intent to restore the degraded habitats of these public lands. With foresight, British Columbia recently announced that by phasing out or canceling its leases, it will transition away from open water net pens over the next few years. Washington is now the last state on the west coast to allow commercial open water net pens, and the last jurisdiction on the entire North Pacific Coast that has not already banned, excluded, or committed to phasing them out.

Nobody knows how farming steelhead will impact Puget Sound, not even DOE, who granted the permit and whose statements about steelhead being less risky to farm than Atlantic salmon were contradicted by its own documents submitted as proof. With a new biological opinion issued by NOAA Fisheries last winter, the harm to endangered species, including native steelhead, has been officially recognized.

Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz is the deciding official on whether to grant leases to Cooke Aquaculture or to the Wild Fish Conservancy. It’s already well-known that like just about everyone else, both she and Governor Inslee dislike the aggressive and litigious behavior of Cooke Aquaculture, but think about it: this is our state government and we have a voice. We should use it. A vocal chorus from the public might lend more weight to a decision in favor of restoring our public trust resources. Contact the Office of the Commissioner of Public Lands at cpl@dnr.wa.gov, or at MS 47001, Olympia, WA 98504-7001. Phone: 360-902-1004, fax: 360-902-1775.

Link to report: https://olympicforest.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Net-Pen-Fish-Farms-in-Puget-Sound-Position-Paper.pdf

EVENT: 8/26/22 @ 9am Birding in the Park – Fort Flagler

Birding and nature tours are now being held on the 4th Friday of each month. Wear sturdy footwear and dress for changeable weather. bring binoculars and your own water.

Registration: Please send Bev an email, subject: Birdwatching Walk to Bevybirds53@gmail.com and she will plan directly with you. Please note this program is dependent on good weather.

Presenter: Beverly McNeil, Admiralty Audubon trip leader and photographer, has been conducting bird walks at Fort Flagler. Beverly’s photographs are displayed at the Port Townsend Gallery: http://porttownsendgallery.com/artists/beverly-mcneil/.

 

Image001

Hot enough? You haven’t seen anything yet.

Reading through New Scientist today, UK’s hottest day on record sees temperatures pass 40°C | New Scientist, I was struck by their comments that we are now at 1.5 degrees C experiencing this kind of interruption to society in the U.K. Canada and the U.S. but we are expecting 3.5 degrees by the end of this century.

Think that through. We are experiencing this kind of heat in the northern hemisphere at only 1/3rd of the way to where scientists predict we are going. At the same time, none of the 40 countries that met in Berlin last week for the annual climate change talks did anything of substance to help low-income countries. We are failing on all accounts. The vast majority of people simply refuse to believe it until they are washed away, living in an inferno or finding their forests burning. We are *in* climate change. There is no going back.

If you have anything you can do, it’s to take this issue to our elected or soon to be elected officials. They need to hear that it’s unacceptable to do nothing or blame others in the face of this slow moving disaster.

It’s up to you now. The politicians are refusing to save us. The Republicans just want to return to a past that included burning rivers of pollution, fogging children with DDT and more. The born again Christians seem to simply be interested in abortion or believe we are in end times and are simply waiting for salvation rather than helping come up with solutions. We are truly untethered as society and needing leadership that will only come from people not yet on the stage. The future is not going to be like the past, but with work it might be better than we think. Step up now.

A farewell to Bob Campbell

From our friends at the Feiro Marine Life Center in PA. I agree, Bob was a wonderful human being. Sad to see him gone, though I haven’t seen him in a few years.

Please note that Feiro will be closed on Sunday, July 24 so that staff and volunteers will be able to attend Bob Campbell’s Celebration of Life.

He will be celebrated at 2:00pm at Studio Bob, 118 1/2 East Front Street, Port Angeles, with refreshments and socializing to follow.

Bob was a wonderful human with a deep passion for our ocean and a commitment to mentoring young humans. He was Feiro’s Facilities Director from 2003-2016. We miss him every day.

%d bloggers like this: