WDFW authorizes transfer of Atlantic salmon into net pens

Note the new location to get future alerts on farmed salmon issues at the bottom of the story.

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has authorized Cooke Aquaculture to transport about 800,000 juvenile Atlantic salmon from the company’s hatchery in Rochester, Wash., to existing net-pen facilities in Puget Sound.

WDFW issued the fish transport permit this week after working to ensure Cooke had met all of the state’s requirements for fish health.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed legislation to phase out Atlantic salmon net pen operations in Puget Sound as soon as 2022. Cooke is continuing its operations in the meantime.

On Aug. 2, Cooke submitted applications to move a total of 800,000 1-year-old Atlantic salmon from its Scatter Creek facility in Rochester to two different net pen locations in Puget Sound.

Both WDFW and Cooke tested samples of the fish, which met the state’s health requirements, including testing negative for all forms of the fish virus PRV (piscine orthoreovirus), said Ken Warheit, WDFW’s fish health manager.

Cooke typically transports fish eggs from an Iceland facility to Scatter Creek, where the eggs grow into smolts before being moved to net pens. In May, an exotic strain of PRV that shows up in north Atlantic waters was detected in a different batch of smolts at Cooke’s Scatter Creek facility. WDFW denied the company’s request to transfer those fish into net pens.

The state also requires that Cooke leave its net pens empty (or “fallow”) for at least 30 days before transferring fish there. Warheit noted that Cooke will also meet this requirement as it transfers fish in October and November.

Cooke will move about 400,000 juvenile Atlantic salmon to its Cooke’s Hope Island facility in Skagit Bay and another 400,000 fish to its Orchard Rocks facility (Kitsap County) in Rich Passage.

All future notifications about Atlantic salmon transfer permits will be posted online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/ais/salmo_salar/ where people will be able to sign up for email notifications in the near future.

See related story: https://olyopen.com/2018/08/27/alexandra-morton-and-sea-shepherd-take-water-samples-in-pa-harbor/

 

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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