Sunday, February 25, 2018
The largest U.S. producer of farmed salmon has lost a contract on a lease site in Puget Sound. The decision came after multi-agency state investigation in connection with a broken holding pen. The investigation said that the net collapsed due to Cooke Aquaculture Pacific’s failure to adequately clean their nets per the contract. The extra weight of mussels and other debris caused the net to fail and allowed thousands of non-native fish to escape into the Sound. Cooke has disputed the state’s findings about the amount and size of the fish that weren’t recovered.
The blowback from the pen failure has resulted in Washington state voting to phase out net pen salmon farming in Puget Sound. While Cooke argues there is no scientific basis for claiming the farmed Atlantic salmon are a threat to Pacific salmon, but the new regulations could endanger their other operations in Washington. Cooke maintains four facilities in western Washington, with two being closed for violations in the last two months.
The legislation against net pens could spell the end of aquaculture in 1,020 sq. mi. Puget Sound. It is too early to measure the economic impact that these phase-outs will have, but Cooke employees could be out of a job. Cooke’s violations of their lease agreement not only include improperly maintaining their nets, but also anchor lines outside the lease zone, and an unapproved feed barge. The Washington Department of Natural Resources cited that remaining net pen groupings were in danger of catastrophic failure. The repercussions of the net breakage has already created a massive ripple in the Washington aquaculture industry. This simply goes to show the importance of following the rules established when parties enter into a contract.