UPDATE: The Lummi Nation has declared a state of emergency due to the ongoing spill of Atlantic salmon.

On August 19th, Cooke Aquaculture’s net pens near Cypress Island reportedly released over 300,000 farmed Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound waters. The company’s statement blames “exceptionally high tides and currents coinciding with this week’s solar eclipse.” But the release occurred Saturday afternoon, when charts show that tides and currents were well within predictions. The eclipse took place Monday morning.

Every West Coast state except for Washington has banned Atlantic salmon net pens for their negative impact. Intensive farming of these non-native fish in Puget Sound waters poses a tremendous risk to native fish stocks, which include endangered Chinook salmon and steelhead trout. Cooke’s statement is misleading, distracting from their failure to secure the pens safely and to adequately prepare for predictable tide events. In fact, over the last month, there were at least 11 days with higher tides than occurred on August 19th. And king tides during the winter are routinely much higher than those reported this month.

Escaped Atlantic salmon can compete with native fish and transmit disease and parasites. Farmed salmon are treated with antibiotics and are fed with artificial dyes to make the fish meat more appealing to consumers. These fish do not belong in our waters. The best way to provide sustainable seafood is to restore our once world famous native salmon fisheries.

Cooke Industries has plans to expand a net pen site near Port Angeles and install up to 20 more sites in the Puget Sound area. A hearing is scheduled on the Port Angeles proposal on September 7th, and the North Olympic Sierra Club group is holding a free info session on August 29th in Sequim which will feature presentations by Kurt Beardslee of Wild Fish Conservancy and Puget Soundkeeper Chris Wilke.

For more information, visit Our Sound, Our Salmon.

Workers repairing one of Cooke Aquaculture's net pens near Port Angeles. Workers at Cooke’s net pen operation near Port Angeles.