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More Atlantic salmon coming to Puget Sound despite objections

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

The company that spilled thousands of invasive salmon into Puget Sound is sending 1 million more into local pens despite objections from state officials.

“We are very concerned about Cooke Aquaculture’s plan to transfer up to 1 million Atlantic salmon smolts to a net pen in Clam Bay across from Bainbridge Island. This is disappointing and frustrating, coming on the heels of the August collapse of Cooke’s net pen near Cypress Island that held 305,000 fish,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee said.

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The infamous salmon spill occurred in August at the company’s net pens just southwest of Bellingham, off of Cyprus Island prompting the Lumi Nation to declare a state of emergency. Fishermen were instructed to catch as many of the more than 300,000 loose Atlantic salmon as they possibly could and remove them from the water.

More Atlantic salmon

Cooke Aquaculture’s current plan is to transfer 1 million salmon smolts to another pen in Rich Passage, just off of Bainbridge Island. This is not the same area as the Cyprus Island spill. Governor Inslee and Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz have both asked Cooke Aquaculture to stop its plans until investigations into the August salmon spill have been completed.

But Cooke Aquaculture is moving forward anyway. The pens off of Bainbridge Island have recently been inspected following the salmon spill.

“It’s very concerning,” said Jaime Smith with the governor’s office. “This is a company whose net pen failed just months ago. We are still investigating that net pen failure. Over 300,000 Atlantic salmon were released into Puget Sound as a result of that … there are thousands of fish that are unrecovered. Transferring a million new Atlantic salmon smolt into an existing net pen is not something that we want the company to do.”

State agencies have been instructed not to approve any permits for any of the company’s new aquaculture pens. The state, however, has limited say in the company’s existing plans. Smith said that the agencies in charge of monitoring aquaculture, such as the Department of Fish and Wildlife, do not have the ability to stop new salmon from being placed in existing pens. She also noted that there are no state laws or regulations that can prevent the move either.

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