Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

By Chris Philips
Managing Editor 

Impending Invasion


September 1, 2017


Following the release into Puget Sound of as many as 187,000 farm-raised Atlantic salmon from a farm located in the Cypress Island Aquatic Reserve, Cooke Aquaculture is working with tribal fishermen to purchase the fish at a per-piece price.

At press time, anglers had reported catching 1,180 fish in the San Juan Islands, the straits of Juan de Fuca, Neah Bay and off Alki Point. The State Department of Fish and Wildlife has authorized 5-inch mesh in areas 7B and 7C, and suggests using the existing fish tickets to report catches of the farmed fish.

An Attorney for Cooke Aquaculture, Amalia Walton, wants to hear from non-tribal commercial harvesters who are catching these escaped fish. She can be reached at 206-250-2553.

On page 5 of this issue (Fishermen's News, September 2017) we note that salmon runs in Ketchikan, Petersburg and Juneau were coming in weak this year. Meanwhile, new research shows that a deadly virus (HMSI) has been causing disease in BC salmon farms. We don’t know if the two issues are related, but an outbreak of HMSI can infect the entire population of a typical fish farm and kill as many as 20 per cent, while also infecting local wild salmon.

According to Cooke seafood, Puget Sound hosted the first commercial net pen farm in North America, and eight Atlantic salmon farms owned by the company have been operating at Cypress Island, Hope Island, Port Angeles, and Rich Passage for more than 30 years.

Because of this, it’s only “natural” that the company would be interested in a scheme by the State of Washington to introduce more Atlantic salmon to state waters.

Cooke industries was established in new Brunswick, Canada in 1985, and has been acquiring aquaculture companies at a steady pace, including the acquisition of Icicle Seafoods last year.

The company’s business model relies on expansion, and the State of Washington is happy to help. While Alaska, Oregon and California have banned Atlantic salmon net pens, Washington State is preparing to increase its aquaculture footprint dramatically.

A study from last August outlines efforts by the state to establish guidelines for the expansion and further establishment of permanent Atlantic salmon farms throughout state waters.

The study, produced by the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Shorelines and Environmental Assistance Program (SEA Program), is a scientific blueprint to aid in the siting and permitting of Atlantic salmon production facilities. The initial geographic scope of the project includes Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor, Puget Sound and the Straits of Georgia and Juan de Fuca.

Stakeholders participating in the study include state and county agencies, environmental organizations, scientists and local tribes. Also participating is Cooke Aquaculture Pacific, the owner of the eight existing salmon farms and the entity currently working with the state to open a new facility in Clallam County.

Not on the list of stakeholders is anyone from the state’s commercial fishing industry.

The state has gone so far as to codify aquaculture in to law. Chapter 15.85 of the Revised Code of Washington allows for the marketing of farmed salmon and includes a provision for state funding to assist the aquaculture industry to market and promote the use of its products.

In summary: the State of Washington is working with Cooke industries to develop large fish farms in the areas where the state’s wild salmon are harvested by the state’s commercial fishermen. The state has promised to help Cooke promote its products, and use your taxes to do so. Meanwhile, a nasty virus is running rampant in the BC farms and possibly affecting wild fish in BC and Southeast Alaska.

Big multinational corporations like Cooke have political power that small-boat commercial fishermen do not. But you have the power of the ballot box, and your elected representatives, neighbors, family and friends should be warned that very soon- as early as 2019- Atlantic salmon could replace wild Pacific salmon in state waters and on your table.

Chris Philips can be reached at: 206-284-8285 or email:


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