Eclipse to blame for salmon spill? ‘Nonsense!’

Aug 23, 2017, 1:36 PM

Renowned Seattle chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas is appalled by the release of over 300,000 Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound waters.

RELATED: Eclipse’s high tides break net, dump salmon

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is urging the public to catch as many of the fish as possible, with no limit on size or number, after a net imploded at a Cooke Aquaculture fish farm near Cypress Island. The fish are about 10 pounds each.

That’s an impossible task, the restaurateur pointed out.

“There’s no way to get rid of them; they’re in the wild,” Douglas told KIRO Radio. “When you do catch them, you can tell the difference, so sure, go fish for them. Do I think they’re all going to get caught and not intermingle with our wild species? Absolutely not. It’s too late. The fish are out of the pen, so to speak.”

Douglas also refused to provide a recipe appropriate for Atlantic salmon.

“They’re making light of it and I think it’s tragic.”

No one knows yet how many escaped. But Ron Warren, fish program assistant director for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, told The Seattle Times the net had some 3 million pounds of fish in it when it imploded Saturday.

Warren said the spill was caused by tides pushed unusually high by Monday’s approaching total solar eclipse.

“They’ve known for — I’d guess — 38 years that the eclipse was coming,” Douglas said. “They can tell you when the sun was going to be blocked out and when the tides are going to come. So that’s nonsense. They should have been prepared.”

Whatever the cause, Douglas says their presence in the Pacific is a big problem.

“This has been an issue forever of escaping Atlantic species salmon into the wild Pacific salmon habitat,” he said. “That’s why in my restaurants we just don’t serve farmed salmon because we don’t feel like it’s done properly.”

The Lummi tribes are worried the Atlantic salmon may compete for food with native salmon or pass along diseases.

“Amongst the tribes, these net pen operations have been a big concern, and we have grave issues with their proposed expansion and negative effects to wild salmon resources,” Casey Ruff told Crosscut. Russ is the management director of the Skagit River System Cooperative, a tribal natural resource management group for the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.

Ruff also doesn’t believe the eclipse is to blame, pointing out that there have been recent, large tidal exchanges with little effect.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Eclipse to blame for salmon spill? ‘Nonsense!’