The battle of sea lice and salmon goes on

An update on the battle to remove fish farms from Canada. The industry denies it’s a problem here, 100 miles south…

  • Increased sea lice infestations, scientists say are caused by salmon farms, threaten the already-vulnerable wild Pacific salmon populations in western Canada, worrying conservationists and First Nations.
  • Three First Nations in the region are now deciding on the future of open net pen Atlantic salmon farms dotting the channels and waterways in and around their territories. They hope their decisions will pave the way to protect wild salmon, a culturally important species.
  • So far, ten farms have been closed and the future of seven farms are to be decided this year, in 2023.
  • The impact of the closure of the farms on sea lice and wild salmon populations is still unclear, say scientists, and more time to monitor the data is needed.

As sea lice feast away on dwindling salmon, First Nations decide the fate of salmon farms (mongabay.com)

Swelling school of seaweed farmers looking to anchor in Northwest waters – Salish Current

There is so much more to this issue. Are we really wanting to trade off our waters for animal feed or fertilizer? Better speak up now.


Prospective kelp growers who want to join the handful of existing commercial seaweed farms in the Pacific Northwest are having to contend with a lengthy permitting process. It’s gotten contentious in a few cases, but even so, at least a couple of new seaweed farms stand on the cusp of approval. Their harvests could be sold for human food, animal feed or fertilizer. Tom Banse reports. (NW News Network)  

See also: Can kelp farming help save our marine environment? Richard Arlin Walker reports.

(Salish Current, 10/7/22) 

Cooke Aquaculture files appeal of DNR decision

As this blog stated over a week ago, the saga of net pens on the Olympic Peninsula is not over yet. 

Cooke Aquaculture Pacific, LLC has filed an appeal of the state Department of Natural Resources’ denial of its leases for steelhead farms in state waters.

https://www.peninsuladailynews.com/news/cooke-aquaculture-files-appeal-of-dnr-decision/

 

Net Pen Aquaculture Industry Targets DNR’s Hilary Franz

In a series of articles across multiple platforms, the net pen aquaculture industry and their allies have targeted Washington State’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Hilary Franz for attack and lawsuits after her controversial decision to end net pen aquaculture of Atlantic salmon in Puget Sound and Hood Canal.

Posts on LinkedIn (which does not allow critical rebuttal) by Jeanne McKnight, a PR specialist that works for the aquaculture industry, along with articles in SeaWestNews about the benefits of net pen aquaculture point to a new attack on Franz by the industry. Past Chairman of the Pacific Aquaculture Caucus Peter Becker also weighs in with his opinion in a long reply to McKnight’s original post.

The articles and posts point out that Franz came from a law degree background and not the “fisheries science industry”, so as not to be capable of deciding for an industry that has long been in the driver’s seat regarding influencing the regulators charged with regulating them. Cooke did an excellent job in the past of dividing to conquer the regulators by helping legislate multiple agencies to regulate multiple aspects of each farm, ending in a fiasco of collapsing nets due to poor maintenance and escaped fish. Franz rightly decided that Cooke should be banned from the near shore waters and shorelines of the State because of that incompetence. Her agency is charged with protecting those wild stock resources (along with other agencies).

The articles also raise smear tactics based on her decision by saying she ‘cherry picked’ the tribes in support of her decision (not even notifying the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe who are partnering with Cooke Aquaculture for a sable fish net pen in Port Angeles harbor). This blog believes that Franz will exempt the Jamestown in the near future and allow them to create net pens for black cod as long as Cooke is not part of the business model.

All these are desperate tactics by an industry under attack both here and in Canada. The long-time work of Dr. Alexandra Morton in Canada, raised scientifically valid hypothesis and proofs over and over again that the industry is partially if not fully responsible for the collapse of wild stocks in many rivers in Western British Columbia while the industry takes credit for 97% of Canadian salmon produced being farm raised (as reported in an article in the industry journal SeaWestNews.) That statistic can also be read to mean that since farmed salmon have arrived 97% of wild salmon have vanished. The question is why is that statistic true? Alexandra Mortons’ research, among others such as Dr. Lawrence Dill, point to the reasons that the industry would rather ignore. Viruses from the farms as well as sea lice coming from the pens that are co-located in passages that the wild salmon have to traverse. The industry here claims that sea lice are not the problem that they are in B.C.

The reality is that this issue is not over yet, though Commissioner Franz’ decision (political though it may be) is not without the possibility of challenge in the courts. Washington State Dept. of Fish & Wildlife (not DNR) having lost a limited case ruling in the Washington State Supreme Court in a unanimous decision that only dealt with whether or not the permit for Cooke had met SEPA standards, the industry believes DNR may not be on the most solid ground to uphold this new decision. Can they argue that the decision was arbitrary and capricious? The industry also sees this as a test to save the geoduck aquaculture industry from a similar fate, as many of the same issues raised in this case could be applied by environmentalists to the near shore. Actually, they already have been but have not yet found the political support to stop the ongoing destruction of our shorelines by geoduck aquaculture illegally supported by both DNR and the Army Corps of Engineers (as decided in recent court battles lost by both agencies. )

Don’t go popping champagne bottles just yet, as we have not seen the end of the industry as it relates to this issue. The arc of justice may be finally bending in the way of environmental protection as it relates to the problems of net pen aquaculture, but the industry will do its best to bend it back to profit over wild stocks.

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.”

‘Momentous’: Feds advance demolition of 4 Klamath River dams – AP

More dams are slated for removal to save what’s left of the historic salmon runs. Decommissioning could mean that the method that they use could allow the dams to be reinstated if the runs go extinct. It can mean clearing around the dams to allow the river to free flow but leave the dams standing. As the story tells, this was driven by the local Tribes (with help from environmental organizations), who’s treaties the Federal Government ignored for over a century. For those of us who have seen this remarkably beautiful river, it is a joy to think it will be freed again. Now to continue the move to solar power, wind power and wave power to replace the dam’s energy output. That part of the coast has lots of sunshine and of course, wave action galore.

U.S. regulators approved a plan on Thursday to demolish four dams on a California river and open up hundreds of miles of salmon habitat that would be the largest dam removal and river restoration project in the world when it goes forward. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s unanimous vote on the lower Klamath River dams is the last major regulatory hurdle and the biggest milestone for a $500 million demolition proposal championed by Native American tribes and environmentalists for years. The project would free hundreds of miles of the river, which flows from Southern Oregon into Northern California. Gillian Flaccus reports. (Associated Press)

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

With cash boost from government, Cascadia Seaweed dives into cattle feed – Times Colonist

As expected, the “environmentally friendly” new industry of seaweed farming that is being promoted for Puget Sound is apparently being used in Canada for, wait for it, producing feed for cattle. No joke. This has got to be one of the worst tradeoffs possible for turning our Salish Sea into a seaweed farm, on top of the never-ending conversion of beaches for aquaculture, etc. If you want to weight in, take this article and write to your state congresspeople, DNR and others and tell them that this is not what we expected in moving into seaweed farming


Sidney-based Cascadia Seaweed has been given $4.3 million by the federal government to establish a 100-hectare seaweed farm and agri-feed processing facility close to Prince Rupert. Cascadia, which combines cultivation expertise, First Nations partnerships and brand development, currently has about 26 hectares of seaweed under cultivation in waters off the province’s coast. Andrew Duffy reports. (Times Colonist)

$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) 

Can kelp farming help save our marine environment? -Salish Sea Current

This is an echo of both the race to open the Sound up to salmon farms in the late 70s (a failure both financially and environmentally) and the race to open beaches across the Sound to commercial aquaculture, including geoducks (a financial boon but an environmental disgrace). Our tendency to ignore the possible downsides of new aquaculture plays into a narrative that all aquaculture is “good” and “sustainable”. Part of the issue here is that NOAA is looking to continue to support the conversion of our waters and beaches into commercial companies, which end up making it impossible to access more and more of our public beaches. Part of NOAAs efforts is to put a “stacked” farming plan into effect, looking at each depth as a possible source of revenue for businesses. Shellfish on the bottom, kelp in the middle with hopefully some fish along the way. Where recreational users fit into this is ignored. Proof? try kayaking in many of the bays in the South Sound, where geoduck nets straddle much of the waters. Is there any real debate going on about kelp farming at the state level or will we simply open the waters to another industry that we can never again reign in. There rarely is any ability to stop or better regulate it once it’s in place.

To be clear, I am not against the idea of this industry taking hold, I’m against the blind race to simply permit this without really debating the long term consequences of our actions.

Thirteen Washington counties ring the Salish Sea; a kelp farm would have to meet the requirements of each county’s shoreline master plans, which regulate shoreline uses. Tribal governments would likely want to review applications to ensure a kelp farm wouldn’t interfere with tribal fishing in their usual and accustomed areas.

Can kelp farming help save our marine environment? – Salish Current (salish-current.org)

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

Beyond Pesticides Launches Campaign to Save Dungeness Spit from Aquaculture

Beyond Pesticides (BP) has apparently recently learned of the ongoing battle to save Dungeness Spit from an aquaculture farm, supported by Commissioner Hilary Franz and others in our local and state governments. While BP is late to this issue, we welcome their efforts to stop this while we still have a small chance.


In spite of the known harm to migratory and residential birds, salmon, forage fish, other wildlife and their primary feeding areas, and a recommendation by the National Marine Fisheries Service that “an alternative site be identified in a location that results in less potential impacts to wildlife that is more appropriate for aquaculture and meets the goals of the tribe,” permitting agencies approved permits and a lease for a 50-acre industrial oyster farm for private financial gain inside the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. This decision, which is in violation of the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, must be reversed.

Agencies are well aware of the potential damage to the lands it is their mission to protect.

>>Tell the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the Dungeness National Wildlife lease must be rescinded.

The Dungeness Bay Wildlife Refuge was created by Executive Order in 1915 by Woodrow Wilson, directing the area to be set aside as a “refuge, preserve and breeding ground for native birds and prohibits any disturbance of the birds within the reserve.” The Refuge provides habitat, a preserve and breeding grounds for more than 250 species of birds and 41 species of land animals. 

The front page of the Refuge website states: “Pets, bicycles, kite flying, Frisbees, ball-playing, camping, and fires are not permitted on the Refuge as they are a disturbance for the many migrating birds and other wildlife taking solitude on the Refuge.” With this level of concern, it is counterintuitive to allow destructive industrial aquaculture. 

These detrimental effects to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge are NOT minimal. Among the negative impacts of this project are: 50% reduction in bird primary feeding grounds;  20,000 – 80,000 toxic plastic oyster bags that exclude the probing shorebird flocks from feeding deeply into the substrate, entrapment of fish and birds, add macro- and micro-plastic bits to the sediment throughout the refuge, and shift the benthic community composition; diminishment of the ecological benefits provided by eelgrass to threatened fish and birds, such as nourishment and cover from predators and, with warming waters, increased toxic algal blooms that will leave a graveyard of dead oysters. Additionally, commercial shellfish operations attract pathogens and non-native species that threaten the area ecosystem and the shellfish. Decision makers should not place financial benefits to the corporation above the long term and cumulative impacts to the refuge.

>>Tell the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the Dungeness National Wildlife lease must be rescinded.

Two Countries, Two Government Officials, Poised to Make One Critical Decision

The Wild Fish Conservancy brings up the impending decisions on net pens that both BC and Washington officials will be making. Given a conversation that I had with Commissioner Franz last year, I hold very little hope of her doing the right thing. She seems either ignorant of the issues, letting staffers make the decisions, or in favor of industry on this topic. But your input now could make a difference. Call her office. 360-902-1000


Causeway removal meant big jump in juvenile salmon – AP

Good news from the work done by North Olympic Salmon Coalition (NOSC) and the State.

Only six juvenile salmon were found during seining in the five years before the bridge opened. During this year’s seining, over two days in May, volunteers netted close to 1,000 juvenile salmon

https://www.knkx.org/environment/2022-06-06/causeway-removal-meant-big-jump-in-juvenile-salmon

Trouble on the Half Shell

Scientists have discovered a mystery parasite—what will it mean for the future of Washington’s oysters?

Interesting article that features the Jamestown S’Klallam and their efforts to restore Olympia Oysters, and scientists trying to better understand the history of this mysterious parasite.

FDA Sued Over Failure to Release Documents Regarding Approval of Genetically Engineered Salmon, Planned Ohio Production Facility 

While this is not local news, it does show that the aquaculture industry seems to be untrustworthy when it comes to honesty to the public. We have seen this many times locally. As mentioned before, the only way to protect our environment seems to be in the courts. We have seen many times recently that we cannot trust the FDA, NOAA, State & Federal EPA, local officials nor the Army Corps of Engineers to actually do their jobs in following the law to protect our environment. The only thing that seems to stop them is lawsuits.

“After years of touting that it will grow its fish in tanks that recycle the water, the company now plans to pump water from the aquifer that supplies community drinking water and dump wastewater back into a nearby stream. Without the requested documents, we have no way to know if FDA has fully considered the effects this facility will have on the local environment.” 


SAN FRANCISCO—Today, Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for unlawfully withholding records regarding FDA’s environmental assessment of genetically engineered (GE) salmon and a planned Ohio-based production facility—a major expansion from current capacity. The FOIA lawsuit comes on the heels of CFS and allies’ successful lawsuit holding FDA’s approval of GE salmon unlawful. FDA’s approval marked the first time any government in the world had approved a GE animal as food. 

“Despite the 2020 court decision holding FDA’s first-ever approval of a genetically engineered food animal unlawful, FDA claims it needs nearly two years to produce records,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney at Center for Food Safety. “But our request is narrow and straightforward: it’s time for FDA to tell the public about the possible environmental and ecological effects of genetically engineered salmon, including any effects to endangered wild salmon species.”  

AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage GE salmon is produced with DNA from Atlantic salmon, Pacific king salmon, and Arctic Ocean eelpout. In 2016, CFS and Earthjustice—representing a broad client coalition of environmental, consumer, commercial and recreational fishing organizations and the Quinault Indian Nation—sued FDA over the agency’s approval of GE salmon, citing inadequate environmental assessments and broad risks to ecosystems. 

In 2020, in a victory for CFS and allies, a California district court ruled the FDA violated core federal environmental laws in approving GE salmon, including failing to fully assess the serious environmental consequences of approving a GE salmon and the full extent of plans to grow and commercialize the salmon in the U.S. and around the world. The court sent the approval back to FDA to undertake more thorough environmental analyses to inform the public about the potential risks. 

After that ruling, AquaBounty announced plans to build a $200 million facility, expanding its production of GE salmon by 10,000 metric tons. This operation will be eight times larger than its existing Indiana facility. With action in play to produce GE salmon on an even larger scale, it is even more important to understand the environmental and ecological risks of producing and marketing GE salmon for human consumption.  

In October 2021, CFS submitted a FOIA request to FDA, seeking all documents related to FDA’s environmental assessments of AquaBounty’s AquAdvantage salmon and the planned Ohio facility, pursuant to the district court’s ruling. FDA is yet to produce the records, prompting CFS to now sue FDA under FOIA.  

“We are concerned that FDA is not paying careful attention to AquaBounty’s planned expansion in Ohio,” said Jaydee Hanson, policy director at Center for Food Safety. “After years of touting that it will grow its fish in tanks that recycle the water, the company now plans to pump water from the aquifer that supplies community drinking water and dump wastewater back into a nearby stream. Without the requested documents, we have no way to know if FDA has fully considered the effects this facility will have on the local environment.” 

CFS is committed to ensuring the public has access to information concerning government regulation of food production and labeling. CFS’s FOIA program is committed to upholding the principles embodied in FOIA, such as maintaining an open and transparent government. 

# # # 

Center for Food Safety’s mission is to empower people, support farmers, and protect the earth from the harmful impacts of industrial agriculture. Through groundbreaking legal, scientific, and grassroots action, we protect and promote your right to safe food and the environment. Please join our more than one million members across the country at www.centerforfoodsafety.org. Twitter: @CFSTrueFood 

Concerns remain over tribe’s oyster farm in Dungeness Bay – Sequim Gazette

More on the ongoing battle over the Dungeness Spit oyster farm.

Groups Again Sue Army Corps to Protect Washington’s Coastal Areas and Endangered Species from Industrial Shellfish Operations

Back to the battle lines in the courthouse to make the Army Corps. of Engineers live up to the law. They were found guilty of not doing diligence in the last year, and yet they reissued the same permits in the last days of the Trump administration with no changes by sending out “Letters of Permission” to get around the ruling. A truly cynical move. What can you do about this? Donate to either CFS or the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat. From the press release today:


SEATTLE—Today, Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) from continuing the excessive expansion of industrial shellfish operations without considering the cumulative impacts to Washington’s rich and diverse coastal waters. Industrial shellfish operations adversely affect Washington’s shorelines and estuaries by destroying critical habitat for numerous species, including endangered and threatened salmon and killer whales. These operations harm Washington’s aquatic and nearshore areas by increasing plastic netting and debris, micro-plastics, pesticides, and disturbances in the environment. 

“Despite clear statutory mandates and a previous court decision requiring the government to fully consider the potential impacts of proposed shellfish operations, the Corps continues to ignore its duties by allowing industrial shellfish operations to degrade important aquatic habitats, including through the use of plastics and pesticides, endangering Washington’s shorelines, biodiversity, and surrounding communities,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney at CFS.

In the complaint filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, plaintiffs argue that the nationwide permit (NWP 48 of 2021) authorizing commercial shellfish operations in Washington violates several federal environmental protection laws, including the Clean Water Act (CWA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Endangered Species Act, and Administrative Procedure Act. The complaint also challenges the Corps’ unlawful use of “Letters of Permission” (LOP) to approve industrial shellfish operations without public notice or comment and without considering their overall cumulative impacts. 

The new lawsuit comes on the heels of a previous lawsuit against the Corps, where CFS and allies successfully sued the Trump administration for issuing a similar nationwide permit (NWP 48 of 2017). The court found the previous 2017 permit unlawful under CWA and NEPA, stating that the Corps had failed to adequately consider the impacts on Washington’s shorelines and wildlife habitat, including the cumulative effects of expanding or continuing operations in sensitive areas. In a victory for plaintiffs, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently affirmed the lower court’s decision. 

In January 2021, during the last few days of the Trump administration, the Corps finalized the new nationwide permit for commercial shellfish aquaculture activities. In rushing to issue the permit, the Corps ignored comments from plaintiffs and stakeholders urging the agency to fix problems with its impact analysis before issuing the new permit. For example, neither the 2017 permit nor the 2021 reissuance include any restrictions on pesticide or plastic use. Much like the unlawful 2017 permit, the 2021 permit authorizes commercial shellfish aquaculture activities in Washington without full consideration of the potential adverse effects to aquatic ecosystems and wildlife, prompting CFS and allies to launch another lawsuit to vacate the permit.

“The Coalition is outraged that the Corps would try to avoid doing what is necessary as a bare minimum under the law to protect orcas, salmon, and marine life in Washington from the toxic and physical impacts of the massive number of industrial-scale aquaculture operations that have been proposed,” said Laura Hendricks, director of the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat. “This is precisely the sort of agency action that gives ‘government’ a bad name.”
 

The Corps has already relied on the 2021 NWP 48 to approve thousands of acres of industrial shellfish activities in Washington’s coastal areas, and the LOPs to approve thousands more without public input. Many of the acres authorized for shellfish aquaculture are located near critical spawning, breeding, and feeding habitats for forage fish, threatened and endangered species of salmon and green sturgeon, birds, whales, and other wildlife species. Additionally, operations authorized under the new permit destroy eelgrass and other aquatic plants that provide habitat to wildlife and other essential ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration, sediment stabilization, and nutrient balancing, which help mitigate the effects of climate change. 

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are CFS and Coalition to Protect Puget Sound. CFS is represented by counsel from CFS and Coalition to Protect Puget Sound is represented by the Law Office of Karl G. Anuta and Law Office of Mike Sargetakis.

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