Cooke Aquaculture to move hundreds of thousands of salmon to Puget Sound

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have authorised the company to the juvenile fish to pens this autumn.

Cooke Aquaculture will transfer around 800,000 juvenile Atlantic salmon from a hatchery in Rochester, Washington to other company facilities in Puget Sound as reported in The Seattle Times.

Despite legislation being signed to phase out salmon farms in Washington by 2022, Cook Aquaculture has been granted permission to move the fish, as they can operate under exiting permits that are valid until right up to that date.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) issued the permit for the move earlier this week after Cooke submitted the application to move the fish on August 2. Both WDFW and Cooke said that they tested the fish and had met the state’s health requirements

400,000 of the salmon will be moved in October and November to their facility in Skagit Bay, and a further 400,000 to a Kitsap County facility in Rich Passage.

The law was signed after the company was blamed for the Salish Sea mass-escapee event after a Cooke net pen collapsed near Cypress Island in August of 2017. 160,000 Atlantic salmon were released when its grow-outs collapsed into the Pacific Ocean. They were ordered to pay a USD 332,000 fine and subsequently ending salmon farming operations in Washington.

In an email to SalmonBusiness, Joel Richardson Vice President Public Relations at Cooke Aquaculture referred us to a previously published response, saying: “We are pleased that the Washington State government approved the transport of juvenile Atlantic salmon from our hatchery in Rochester to existing net-pen farming facilities in Puget Sound. We worked cooperatively with their Department of Fish and Wildlife through the most rigorous screening ever to ensure the fish met all of the state’s requirements, and have been working with other agencies to document the suitability of those facilities to receive these fish.

Our sea farming employees look forward to sustainably raising the Atlantic salmon – which are scientifically proven to be the most suitable species to farm because they do not interbreed with wild Pacific salmon, they are non-competitive with local species, and no example of disease transfer from farmed salmon to wild fish has ever been documented by any regulatory agency in Washington.

Our company and our employees follow best aquaculture practices and farm management plans to prepare the net pens for the fish transfer. The 800,000 fish to be transferred from the hatchery are at age and size that they are ready to be grown out in saltwater at our Hope Island facility in Skagit Bay and our Orchard Rocks facility in Rich Passage.”