Cooke applauds defeat of industry-killing bill

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The bill to ban salmon-farming in Washington State’s Legislature died at the weekend, as the House of Representatives decided Canadian Cooke Aquaculture had suffered a one-off event and had not been negligent.

A vote in the Senate on a bill to ban renewals of salmon-farming licenses was followed by some adjustments by a House committee on a similar bill, but it was defeated after a successful defence by Cooke Aquaculture that focused on economic costs. Cooke had also filed a lawsuit for the loss of one of its farms, although it had two leases revoked by the state’s public lands commissioner.

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On Friday, however, Cooke celebrated the demise of Bill SB 6086 and congratulated the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committed for preventing its passage missing a legislative deadline.

“Banning the state’s 30-year salmon farming industry because of the regrettable accident at Cypress Island last summer would eliminate the hundreds of rural jobs directly and indirectly supported by these sea farms and would do so without scientific justification,” said Joel Richardson, vice president of public relations for Cooke Aquaculture Pacific.

“As the Department of Fish & Wildlife has concluded, the escaped fish pose no threat to wild salmon and banning farmed salmon would not add a single wild salmon back in Puget Sound, but it would needlessly terminate the livelihood of hundreds of Washington rural families.”

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The Canadian-based family owned company is the sole operator of Atlantic salmon farms in Washington and preserved the industry’s workforce after purchasing the state’s 30-year farming facilities in 2016 from a domestic company going bankrupt.

In testimony before the committee, Richardson explained that mass a fish escape at Cypress Island was not larger than several other previous escapes that occurred when Washington’s salmon farms were held under domestic ownership, none of which resulted in attempts to ban the industry or cancel the farms’ leases. Richardson also explained that Cooke did apply to state and federal regulatory agencies for a net pen replacement permit seven months before the collapse to make needed improvements at Cypress Island but did not have the opportunity to do so before the facility failed in August.

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After successfully halting the progress of Bill 6086, Richardson said Cooke will now take this message to the State Senate as it considers a new anti-salmon-farming bill, House Bill 2957. It’s “substantially similar to the newly defeated bill.

Richardson said the company will seek to address concerns about the potential for farmed salmon to interbreed with native salmon by offering an amendment that restricts salmon farms to raising single-sex female fish.