Cooke Aquaculture settles net-pen collapse lawsuit for $2.75 million

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End to lawsuit following salmon farmer’s 2017 net pen break.

The Seattle Times reports that Cooke Aquaculture has reached a settlement to pay pay USD 2.75 million in legal fees and to fund Puget Sound restoration projects.

In August 2017, over 250,000 Atlantic salmon escaped into the Puget Sound from Cooke Aquaculture’s Cypress Island facility on the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. state of Washington.

At the time, the company blamed the net pen failure on ‘exceptionally high tides’ coinciding with the solar eclipse and incident sounded death knell for US salmon farming operations. Consequently, Washington state legislature passed a bill to phase out non-native fish farming, starting in 2022.

Nonprofit conservation organisation Wild Fish Conservancy sued Cooke in August 2017.

It said that the funds will go to the Rose Foundation to fund environmental projects to protect wild salmon and killer whales in Puget Sound, as well as WFC’s litigation expenses. It added that Cooke also agreed to change their practices and address additional dangers identified in the course of the lawsuit.

The legal settlement, which awaits federal officials’ review and a judge’s signature, bookends a contentious and litigious chapter in the fight over fish farming in Washington waters that resulted in the termination of some of Cooke’s leases, a USD 332,000 fine to Cooke,” wrote the Seattle Times.

“Three years ago, when Cooke acquired the existing 30 year old net-pen facilities from a previous owner, we planned to add significant investments on top of the $75-plus million contribution we made to Washington’s economy when we purchased the company. In fact, our permits to replace the Cypress salmon cages were sitting with regulators at the time of the unfortunate incident,” wrote Cooke’s vice president of public relations Joel Richardson in an email to the publication.

Richardson added: “Cooke Aquaculture Pacific LLC has now reached an agreement to the satisfaction of both parties and we are working with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe to shift from rearing Atlantic salmon to Northwest native, sterile triploid, all-female rainbow trout.”