What was first believed to be the escape of a few thousand salmon from a Cooke Aquaculture farm outside coast of Washington, now looks much bigger than first estimates indicated. According to the Seattle Times, tribal fishers, concerned about native salmon populations, call the accident “a devastation.”
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is urging the public to catch as many of the fish as possible, with no limit on size or number.
Cooke Aquaculture initially blamed “exceptionally high tides coinciding with the solar eclipse” for net pen failure near Cypress Island. Later they said there were probably several reasons for the accident.
The company’s explanation met with incredulity from fishermen and environmental groups.
“If they can’t be trusted in an accident like this how can they be trusted to tell the truth in the licensing process?”, said Chris Wilke, executive director of Puget Soundkeeper, a nonprofit environmental group that opposes the company’s planned replacement and expansion of its existing operation.
Ron Warren, fish program assistant director for the WDFW, is now urging people to catch as many of the escaped salmon as possible.
“Catch as many as you want,” he said. “We don’t want anything competing with our natural populations. We have never seen a successful crossbreeding with Atlantic salmon, but we don’t want to test the theory.”