Senate passes ban on invasive species Atlantic salmon net pens

The Washington state Senate passed Sen. Kevin Ranker’s, D-Orcas, legislation to permanently ban commercial net pens used for farming invasive Atlantic salmon in state waters on Thursday, Feb. 8.

“In the months since the escape of hundreds of thousands of invasive Atlantic salmon from the net pen failure, we have learned the extent of the mismanagement and negligence of Cooke Aquaculture,” said Ranker. “This sort of careless behavior is unacceptable for any company in Washington state. The state ban is a strong stance to ensure the protection of our marine environment and native salmon populations in the Salish Sea.”

Since Ranker introduced the legislation earlier this year, the Department of Ecology fined Cooke Aquaculture $332,000 for violating its Clean Water Act permit and a state investigation found the company’s negligence caused the net pen collapse and escapement. The Department of Natural Resources, meanwhile, has canceled two permits for Cooke Aquaculture operations in Port Angles and Cypress Island.

“It is no longer acceptable for the people of the state of Washington to expose our waters to the threats posed by non-native Atlantic salmon in net pens,” said Gov. Jay Inslee at his regular media session. “We need to transition and phase out the leases that now exist because this is a risk that is intolerable and unacceptable.”

“This bill takes a critical step toward protecting the Puget Sound and the native species that call it home,” said Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Edmonds. “Our economy, history and way of life are integrally linked with this delicate ecosystem. We must take the necessary actions to protect it.”

SB 6086 passed on a 35-12 vote and now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.