November 1, 2019
Last month this column generated some correspondence regarding the treatment of sustainably-harvested wild salmon. Suffice it to say that some were happy to see our editorial, some not, but all agreed that fish should be treated as carefully as possible to maintain the quality that customers on the West Coast of the United States deserve and to which they have become accustomed.
Make no mistake – even though People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) calls fish “sea kittens,” they are actually harvested as food, and the appearance, firmness of flesh and taste determine the value to the producer and consumer.
For factory fish, things are different. An activist veganism group called Compassion Over Killing was recently in the news after it surreptitiously filmed a Cooke Aquaculture Atlantic salmon farm in Bingham, Maine. The video shows disturbing footage of fish, hideously-deformed by fungal infections and birth defects, being culled, violently, from the rest of the farmed fish.
After release of the video, the group followed up with a complaint to the Maine Department of Agriculture, which then contacted Cooke officials.
The video is intentionally and perhaps gratuitously disturbing, but still serves to reveal the differences between wild, responsibly-harvested fish and the factory-farmed variety foisted on unwary consumers.
Glenn Cooke, CEO of the Cooke family of companies, quickly released a statement condemning the practices and assuring his customers that the company “places animal welfare high in our operating standards and endeavor to raise our animals with optimal care and consideration of best practice.”
Northwest Washington got a first-hand look at Cooke’s operating standards, optimal care and consideration of best practice when the 2017 failure of a net pen anchoring system led to the release of several hundred thousand factory fish into Puget Sound.
Many of those fish, subsequently caught by commercial fishermen, were also deformed and unappetizing and infested with parasites. Glen Cooke wasn’t available for comment at the time, most likely because pressure was not brought to bear by Washington State administrators, who were caught flat-footed by the disaster.
Washington State will get another shot at enforcing standards of care in its waters, as the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe have announced a joint venture with Cooke Aquaculture Pacific to raise sablefish (black cod) and sterile triploid, all-female rainbow trout in an existing Cooke facility at Port Angeles, Washington.
The facility’s lease had been cancelled by the state in 2018 because of violations including a defective anchoring system. The new venture, Jamestown seafood, is expecting to start operations this fall.
Kurt Grinnell, CEO of Jamestown seafood, says no species other than rainbow trout and sablefish are being considered. He further notes that the fish will be fed commercially available diets developed for each species and formulated without antibiotics, and that no other substances, including chitin inhibitors, will be applied to the fish.
Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe Chairman W. Ron Allen is optimistic about the venture. “Our Council is committed to pursuing our self-reliance goal through diversified economic development and education,” he says, “ and we believe this partnership with Cooke Aquaculture Pacific will contribute to meeting that goal.”
Glen Cooke says the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe is known for being progressive and forward-thinking in its approach to resource management and economic development.
“We look forward to working together to produce top quality seafood for consumers in Washington and across the US,” he says.
At press time the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was still considering the permit.
We hope the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe entered into this agreement with open eyes. We’ve seen the video of Cooke’s idea of “top quality.” We’ll stick with the wild stuff, thanks.
Chris Philips can be reached at: 206-284-8285 or email: email@example.com