Washington authorities to put Cooke Aquaculture’s salmon farms under “strongest water quality protections we can put in place”

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“We must protect our waters and native salmon from another disastrous collapse,” said Maia Bellon, director of Ecology.

The Department of Ecology (simply known as “Ecology”) wants to ramp up water quality permits for existing Atlantic salmon farming operations in Puget Sound, according to a press release on their official site.

Though as Cooke Aquaculture is the currently only salmon farmer left in the state, the new rules will only apply to them. The state Department of Ecology is taking comment now on permits for four Cooke Aquaculture Atlantic salmon farms — three in Kitsap County and one in Skagit Bay.

Farming salmon in net pens in Washington’s marine waters is being phased out starting in 2022 as part of House Bill 2597. This means Cooke is allowed to continue with Atlantic salmon farming until 2022. Cooke leases the area for its operations from the Department of Natural Resources.

Ecology is using the investigation from the 2017 Cypress Island net pen collapse to mandate “more protective permit requirements.”

“We must protect our waters and native salmon from another disastrous collapse,” said Maia Bellon, director of Ecology. “Until Atlantic salmon farming ends in Washington’s waters, we are requiring these companies to operate under the strongest water quality protections we can put in place.”

The new additional protective measures include:

• Increasing underwater video monitoring of net pens.

• Conducting inspections to assess structural integrity of the net pens and submit inspection reports certified by a qualified marine engineer to Ecology.

• Improving net cleaning and maintenance procedures to prevent fish escape.

• Requiring development of site specific response plans in the event of a fish release, and conducting preparedness training.

• Requiring improved maintenance of the net pens.

• Maintaining contact information to notify area tribes in the event of a fish release.

Ecology said that it’s accepting comments on the permit through Feb. 25 and will make a final determination after reviewing them.