Contrary to agency claims, escaped Atlantic salmon were infected with a highly contagious and harmful virus – Wild Fish Conservency

The stories and assurances  that the net pen industry and their allies have told for years are now proven to be just lies.  I have sat in Marine Resource Committee meetings and had the industry rep blithely tell the group, with no scientific evidence,  that “there are no diseases down here, that’s a Canadian problem. ”  The WDFW, DNR and Ecology have been telling lawmakers there’s no problem, the escaped fish represent no threat because they are healthy and can’t interbreed. One thing that nature teaches us is that it only takes one genetic mutation to change everything in evolution. Let’s get the bill to phase out net pens passed and put this nightmare to an end.

To remedy the harm that may be imparted to our wild fish, and to get to the bottom of the disease’s source, WFC calls on WDFW, Washington Department of Natural Resources, and Washington Department of Ecology to:
1. Stop all restocking of Atlantic salmon net pens until thorough testing has proven the Atlantic salmon hatchery is not planting PRV infected fish.
2. Immediately test all Atlantic salmon net pens in Puget Sound for PRV.
3. Remove all PRV infected Atlantic salmon from Puget Sound net pens.
4. Immediately disinfect facilities showing any trace of PRV.
These actions are essential to ensure that diseased, PRV-infected fish are not being planted into public waters and that Atlantic salmon raised in net pens are not amplifying the virus and spreading it in the public’s waters where it places our native salmon at risk.
“Hopefully the Washington state legislature will successfully pass legislation to phase out Atlantic salmon net pens in Puget Sound, but in the interim, this alone is far from enough to protect our wild salmon from this industry,” said Kurt Beardslee.“
It’s absolutely critical that our state agencies take immediate action to ensure we’re not planting or amplifying viruses into our public waters.”

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Washington state House votes to ban Atlantic salmon farms – KUOW

This has been a wild ride to try and keep up with the various bills in the House and the Senate and whether they are in or out as of this moment as to banning Atlantic salmon farms. Here’s 8PM on Feb 14th’s latest report:

The Washington House of Representatives has voted to phase out farming of non-native fish in state waters, drawing the end of Atlantic salmon farming in Puget Sound one step closer.

http://kuow.org/post/washington-state-house-votes-ban-atlantic-salmon-farms

Washington state cancels lease for Atlantic salmon farm off Cypress Island -PDN & Seattle Times

Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz has terminated Cooke Aquaculture’s lease to operate Atlantic salmon farms at its Cypress Island site, where a second fish farm is at risk of catastrophic collapse, state inspectors say. In a letter to Cooke managers sent Saturday, Franz said the lease is terminated immediately and the company should wind up its operations and clear out of the site in the San Juan Islands, where one of three pens fell apart last August, releasing more than 260,000 Atlantic salmon in Puget Sound. The termination comes just days after state investigators released a report blaming the net-pen failure on company negligence. The investigators also said the company misled the public and regulators about the scope and causes of the collapse. Lynda Mapes reports. (Seattle Times) See also: Mix of net pen bills takes aim at non-native salmon http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/politics/mix-of-net-pen-bills-takes-aim-at-non-native-salmon/ Mark Swanson reports. (Peninsula Daily News)

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/environment/washington-state-cancels-lease-for-atlantic-salmon-farm-off-cypress-island/

5 counties warned state about salmon-farming back in 2012 – Everett Herald

A good review of the work done in the last ten years fighting net pen salmon. Here in Jefferson County, it was work by the Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee, which voted to recommend supporting the SMP language that would ban net pens in the county, and followed by the support of all three county commissioners, especially now retired Commissioner Phil Johnson.

Not long ago, some of the loudest political voices railing against the danger of farming Atlantic salmon in the waters of Puget Sound came from within chambers of county governments. Back in 2012, leaders of Island, Whatcom, Jefferson, Skagit and San Juan counties — Democrat and Republican — called for a moratorium on such fish farm operations. They also sought authority to include a ban on them in their respective shoreline management plans. They reached out to executives in state agencies as well as former Gov. Chris Gregoire and, later, Gov. Jay Inslee. They lobbied lawmakers and sought backing of tribes in their quest. “While Washington state missteps with outdated science, local governments desiring to recognize modern science, job, and environmental and public threats, ask that they be permitted to ban these open finfish feedlots before they destroy the native species, their habitats, and the jobs we have worked so diligently to protect,” former Island County Commissioner Angie Homola wrote in a six-page issue paper delivered to Inslee in August 2014. Jerry Cornfield reports. (Everett Herald)

http://www.heraldnet.com/news/5-counties-warned-state-about-salmon-farming-back-in-2012/

Norwegian company to build large, land-based salmon farm in Belfast Maine – Republican Journal

News from Maine, shows that fish farming corporations have finally come to grips with the fact that it’s net pen aquaculture doesn’t work, and are moving to build upland facilities that are financially viable. We hope that the Tribes here in Puget Sound, who are holding off support for banning net pens, can use this information to press State Senators Ranker and Van de Wege to add funding for a couple of experimental sites to prove the viability here in Puget Sound. The use of our waters for ‘feed lot’ kind of fish farming, pouring vast arrays of chemicals and fish food must end. We know that the Tribes ‘do the right thing’ as it comes to aquaculture and we hope that they can exert pressure to help them get from this dying technology of net pens, to a new way forward with upland containment.

A Norwegian company plans to build one of the world’s largest land-based salmon farms in Belfast, a project that would create 60 jobs within two years and up to 140 once it is completed, according to the company’s chief executive officer.

https://www.pressherald.com/2018/01/30/norwegian-company-to-build-large-land-based-salmon-farm-in-belfast/

Support for Atlantic Salmon Ban bill in WA Legislature needed now!

We have a historic opportunity to call for a ban for farmed Atlantic salmon that are in net pens in our waters. Tomorrow  1/31/18, there are hearings on two salmon bills in House Ag and Natural Resources:

HB 2957 sponsored by Lytton and Chapman phases out leases and permits for Atlantic salmon net pens only) no renewals or new ones granted.  Tribes support this.  This is the  best bill we are likely to get this session.  It eliminates study requirements. The other bill,

HB 2956 sponsored by Blake,  is a proposal for only FEMALE Atlantic salmon  to be grown.  This of course does not address the antibiotics, disease threats and fecal and food decay pollution issue.
While we are not getting rid of net pens themselves in these bills, starting with Atlantic Salmon in this shortened session is wise. The Tribes are for this, momentum is with us now.We need to do more education of the problems with net pens in general, and see what can be done to address tribal concerns about an outright ban on net pens.
A possible future could be to help fund more experimentation with commercially viable upland tank farming. A similar bill like that was done a decade ago, sponsored by then Representative Kevin Van de Wege to launch hog fuel plants in Port Angeles, Port Townsend and a few other limited sites. While it proved not economically viable, the successful legislation  showed a method  that could be updated and reused to help tribes and others explore some real choices other than net pens. Exploring the work of Atlantic Sapphire out of Miami could be part of this effort.
People can use this link https://app.leg.wa.gov/pbc/bill//2957 to comment in favor of the Lytton/Chapman bill.  Your support is needed now!  The Senate Bill is already out of committee and may be the ultimate vehicle, but  we need to keep the pressure on.

State investigation finds Cooke’s negligence was primary cause of Atlantic salmon net pen collapse

NEWS RELEASE

Washington Department of Natural Resources -Washington Department of Ecology -Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

January 30, 2018

OLYMPIA – State investigators have determined that an excessive buildup of mussels and other marine organisms on nets – caused by Cooke Aquaculture’s failure to properly clean them – led to the August 19 collapse of the company’s net pen at Cypress Island.

An investigative report – authored by the departments of Natural Resources (DNR), Ecology, and Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) – found that 110 tons of mussels and plants had accumulated on the nets before the incident. The report was released today at a news conference in Olympia.

The investigation determined that tidal currents pushing against the tremendous mass of organisms on the nets overwhelmed the pen’s mooring system and crushed the pen.

Extensive corrosion of the net pen structure also contributed to the collapse.

In addition, the agencies identified shortcomings in engineering practices that likely contributed to the failure.

Properly designed and maintained net pens would have withstood the tidal currents of August 19.

“The collapse was not the result of natural causes,” said Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands. “Cooke’s disregard caused this disaster and recklessly put our state’s aquatic ecosystem at risk.”

“The results of our investigative report clearly show a significant violation of Washington’s water quality laws,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon. “Cooke Aquaculture could have prevented this failure.”

“Cooke made this situation even more difficult by under-reporting the number of fish that escaped during the net-pen collapse, and over-reporting the number it recovered afterward,” said Amy Windrope, WDFW’s north Puget Sound regional director.

Growth of mussels and other marine organisms on nets – called “biofouling” – is documented in state agency videos that show a “rain” of mussels falling off nets as debris from the collapse was removed.

The severe biofouling produced 110 tons of material – an average of 11 tons per net.

Cooke’s Failure to Act

Prior to the collapse, Cooke was aware of both the excessive biofouling and the poor condition of the facility.

The report details how Cooke didn’t follow its net pen cleaning schedule when broken net washers were not repaired or replaced. This allowed mussels to accumulate on the nets, which increased the drag from currents and added pressure to the structure.

Cooke also failed to take necessary precautions after the net pens were moved out of position in July when strong currents broke ten mooring points.

Cooke documents show that after the July incident, the company had serious concerns about the facility. An internal company email stated, “We almost lost the farm.”

Nevertheless, after the July incident, Cooke considered, but did not:

·         Replace the biofouled nets,

·         Begin their salmon harvest early, or

·         Increase monitoring of the net pens and have a tug on standby when strong currents were again expected on August 19.

The report notes that state agencies did not investigate the July incident because they received incomplete and misleading information from Cooke.

More Salmon Escaped Than Cooke Reported

The report also found that Cooke misrepresented the number of fish it harvested when the pen collapsed. According to the report:

  • There were 305,000 fish in the net pen prior to failure.
  • Cooke reported harvesting/extracting 145,000 fish from the collapsed net pen.
  • The investigation concluded that Cooke could only have extracted between 42,000 and 62,000 fish.
  • Therefore, between 243,000 and 263,000 fish actually escaped. Previous estimates, based on Cooke’s reports, put the number of escaped fish at 160,000.
  • Of the escaped fish, 57,000 have been caught.
  • Between 186,000 and 206,000 Atlantic salmon remain unaccounted for.

The report concludes that monitoring through the winter and next fall’s salmon run season will be critical to knowing if any escaped Atlantic salmon remain in Washington’s waters and if they are reproducing.

Commissioner Franz is currently reviewing the report and will make an announcement about the future of the Cypress Island facility in the coming days.

In December, DNR terminated Cooke’s lease of state aquatic lands in Port Angeles, citing a failure to maintain the facility in a safe condition.

Ecology intends to take enforcement action against Cooke Aquaculture for violating Washington’s water quality laws.

This multi-agency report included information collected during and after the incident, interviews with Cooke staff, and an engineering review of the failure.

More documents and information is available at www.dnr.wa.gov/atlanticsalmon.

# # #

MEDIA CONTACTS
Carlo Davis

Communications Director

Department of Natural Resources

Office: 360-902-1101

Cell: 360-999-9165

carlo.davis@dnr.wa.gov

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