After a decade of litigation, NOAA Fisheries and EPA will prepare a biological opinion on harm caused by Atlantic salmon net pens

From the Wild Fish Conservancy Press Release this morning. It’s unfortunate that those of us concerned about this issue needed to spend 10 years trying to force them to get to this simple issue. NOAA Fisheries have been one of the biggest boosters of net pen Atlantic salmon, never studying the wider effects of pens beyond a few hundred yards away from them. There has never been a wholistic approach to studying the effects of fish waste, food waste, chemicals added to the water, fish escapement, nor the issue that wild fish are attracted to the pens by food. What we learned from the net pen collapse last fall, was that the claims of the industry, repeated by spokesmen for Taylor Shellfish (who support net pens), that there was no way that Atlantic salmon would survive after escapement, were nothing but wishful thinking. Atlantic salmon from the pens were found far up the Skagit River basin and along the north outer shore of Vancouver Island. The misinformation campaigns of these industries that put profit ahead of environment are stunning in their audacity.


After a decade of litigation, NOAA Fisheries and EPA make the 11th hour decision to prepare a biological opinion on harm caused by Atlantic salmon net pens to ESA- listed salmon and steelhead.

The agencies have finally begun formal consultation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to evaluate the potential harm caused by Atlantic salmon net pens in Puget Sound October 11th, 2018

Duvall, WA – On the eve of court proceedings over a legal battle Wild Fish Conservancy initiated in 2015, NOAA Fisheries and EPA have entered into formal consultation under the Endangered Species Act, consultation that will lead to the issuance of a biological opinion.

Under the Endangered Species Act, a biological opinion evaluates the extent of harm a proposed action will have on threatened or endangered species and whether such harm could jeopardize the continued existence of the species. Biological opinions also include conditions for monitoring and reducing harmful impacts to protected species.

Considering the abundant scientific evidence that open-water Atlantic salmon aquaculture may harm threatened and endangered salmonid species, Wild Fish Conservancy first argued that formal consultation and a biological opinion was necessary back in 2008, when we argued against the agencies’ decision that Atlantic salmon net pens were ‘not likely to adversely affect’ threatened and endangered species. We won that case in 2010, with the court ruling that NOAA and EPA had failed to use the best available science when making their decision and must reconsider whether a biological opinion is necessary.

Less than one year later, after a brief consultation, NOAA and EPA again decided that a biological opinion was unnecessary. This decision was shortly followed by a large-scale disease outbreak in Atlantic salmon net pens off the coast in Bainbridge Island in 2012, which killed over 1 million pounds of farmed Atlantic salmon during a time when juvenile wild salmon were out-migrating through Puget Sound.

Wild Fish Conservancy again challenged the agencies’ decision to avoid a biological opinion in 2015, a case that prompted NOAA and EPA last week to announce their intention to re-initiate consultation and finally prepare a biological opinion. That decision came only after the Court soundly rejected the agencies’ efforts to dismiss the case and ruled that the duty under the Endangered Species Act to re-initiate consultation does apply to EPA’s underlying action.

Since the case was filed in 2015, we have learned far more about the potential for harm the Atlantic salmon net pen industry presents to wild salmon and steelhead. In 2017, a collapsed net pen off the coast of Cypress Island released over 260,000 farmed Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound, nearly all of which are estimated to have been infected with Piscine Reovorius, a highly contagious and potentially lethal virus that may infect wild salmon. A study in 2018

demonstrated that PRV leads to debilitating disease in Chinook salmon, the primary food source of endangered Southern Resident killer whales.

This case comes at a time when key provisions of the Endangered Species Act are under threat in the United States Congress and underscores the monumental importance of the ESA, an act that has been critical in providing key protections to over one thousand threatened and endangered species across the country.

“While it shouldn’t have taken ten years of litigation for our agencies to realize the necessity of a biological opinion,” said Kurt Beardslee, Wild Fish Conservancy’s Executive Director, “I am glad to hear they have decided to change course, and I am hopeful that a biological opinion will lead to conditions and terms that will limit and monitor the harm caused by net pens to ESA-listed salmon and steelhead.

“Taking the utmost precaution is necessary to avoid the extinction of imperiled Pacific salmon and steelhead species, especially when considering the dire plight of Chinook salmon and the Southern Resident killer whales that are starving due to their struggling population.”

Contact

Kurt Beardslee, Executive Director, 425.788.1167/kurt@wildfishconservancy.org

About

Wild Fish Conservancy is a science & research conservation non-profit dedicated to the preservation, protection & restoration of wild fish ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest. We are headquartered in Duvall, WA. Learn more at wildfishconservancy.org

Wild Fish Conservancy is represented in this matter by the law firm of Kampmeier & Knutsen, PLLC, with offices in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.

Sen. Doug Ericksen staying in Olympia, won’t join Trump administration – Tacoma News Tribune

State Sen. Doug Ericksen said Monday he will not join the Environmental Protection Agency, contradicting a federal official who said the Ferndale Republican had been appointed to the agency. An executive assistant for Chris Hladick, the regional administrator for the Pacific Northwest and Alaska Region told the Bellingham Herald on Friday that Ericksen was to be the senior adviser to the Region 10 administrator in Seattle. On Monday, Ericksen said that information was incorrect…. Ericksen largely declined to give details about whether he was offered the job and specifically turned it down. But he said he has had “job offers over the past year” from the Trump administration he decided not to take. Ericksen said he plans to run for reelection to the state Senate in 2018. Walker Orenstein reports. (Tacoma News Tribune)

http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/politics-government/article193588434.html

 

Lawsuit Claims Commercial Salmon Farms Harm Native Fish In Puget Sound – KUOW

Finally, someone decides to question (and challenge) the prevailing assumption that having lice ridden net pens (and dumping antibiotics to protect the salmon from them) of Atlantic salmon in the midst of an endangered run of wild salmon is a good thing. It’s not. It’s a recipe for disaster. We, the taxpayers, are funding millions of dollars to save our wild stocks. Supporting an industry that is known to have problems as a vector for disease and lice is counterproductive. If you wish to help support this lawsuit, even with $10, contribute to The Wild Fish Conservancy. 

The Wild Fish Conservancy is suing federal environmental and fisheries agencies for inadequately monitoring the impact of commercial salmon farms in Puget Sound. The lawsuit filed Wednesday says commercial farms pose many risks to wild salmon. In 2011 the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Marine Fisheries Service found the opposite. They concluded that commercial salmon farms are unlikely to harm wild salmon. Kate O’Connell Walters (KUOW)

http://kuow.org/post/lawsuit-claims-commercial-salmon-farms-harm-native-fish-puget-sound

Feds Propose Tougher Clean Water Rule For Washington, Holding Line On Cancer Risk – KPLU

This is a good sign. We need stronger protections based on the real amount of seafood we eat here in the NW, not just some Washington DC ideal based on low consumption nationwide.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is making good on its promise to put forward a clean water rule for Washington, in case the state doesn’t come up with its own plan in time. At issue is how much fish the government says is safe to eat, if it’s caught in polluted water.  In early August, Washington was on track to adopt a major rewrite of the state’s outdated water standard, known as the “fish consumption rule.” It uses the amount of fish we eat as a measure of how clean the water must be to protect human health. But Gov. Jay Inslee put the most recent proposal on hold and directed the state Department of Ecology to reassess its approach. Bellamy Pailthorp reports. (KPLU)

http://kplu.org/post/feds-propose-tougher-clean-water-rule-washington-holding-line-cancer-risk

Head Of EPA Tours Puget Sound, Supports Congressional Cleanup Caucus – KPLU

Hopefully we’ll see some meaningful action from her visit.

She’s been called President Obama’s “green quarterback.” Gina McCarthy is the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and she’s known for tackling sources of climate change. And now she’s shining a light on efforts to clean up Puget Sound. McCarthy met with government officials and community groups in Tacoma on Wednesday and toured Commencement Bay by boat to learn more about what still needs to be done. Bellamy Pailthorp reports. (KPLU)

http://www.kplu.org/post/head-epa-tours-puget-sound-supports-congressional-cleanup-caucus

Petition for Action Targets Shellfish Farm Operations

It’s unclear what, if any action has been taken by the EPA since this was sent in.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed a EPA petition for action on July 24, 2014 regarding PVC, including PVC pipe and how it degrades (see pages 14-15 of PDF). This petition is in addition to their 2012 EPA petition for action on plastic pollution which included plastic nets, plastic rope and rubber bands.
PVC pipe, plastic nets, plastic rope and rubber bands are used extensively by the shellfish industry in Puget Sound and Willapa Bay/Grays Harbor where citizens continue to pick up increasing amounts of this plastic pollution on the shorelines.
July 2014-EPA PVC Petition (Mentions PVC and PVC pipe-Note:Over 40,000 PVC pipes go into every acre of geoduck aquaculture)

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/ocean_plastics/pdfs/PVC_RCRA.pdf

August 2012-EPA Plastic Pollution Petition (Mentions rubber bands, plastic rope and nets–Note:same materials that shellfish aquaculture uses)
Read the petition and the science behind it at:

Obama Administration Finalizes Stronger Stream Buffers to Protect Imperiled Salmon from Pesticides

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/08/13/18759976.php

The Environmental Protection Agency today finalized an agreement to restore no-spray buffer zones around waterways to protect imperiled salmon and steelhead from five toxic pesticides.

A coalition of conservation organizations, advocates for alternatives to pesticides, and fishing groups cheered the victory. These groups brought a lawsuit to demand reasonable fish protections from the insecticides, some of which are derived from nerve toxins developed during World War II….

The buffers apply to salmon habitat throughout California, Oregon, and Washington to prohibit aerial spraying of broad-spectrum pesticides diazinon, chlorpyrifos, malathion, carbaryl, and methomyl within 300 feet of salmon habitat and prohibit ground-based applications within 60 feet.

 

The agreement provides detailed notice to state regulators, pesticide applicators, farmers, and the public about the required no-spray buffer zones. These buffers will remain in place until the National Marine Fisheries Service completes analyses of the impacts of these five pesticides on the fish. Then, the EPA must implement permanent protections grounded in the Fisheries Service’s findings. (Indymedia)

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