Washington State prohibits the farming of Atlantic salmon. This decision was made following a leak of hundreds of thousands of fish from a New Brunswick Cooke Aquaculture Basin in the summer of 2017.
“The state ban is a strong message to ensure the protection of our marine environment and the native Salish Sea Salmon populations,” said Kevin Ranker, the elected representative who introduced the bill, approved by 31 votes to 16 by the senators, Friday.
It will now be ratified by Governor Jay Inslee, who supports the move to phase out salmon farming operations in state waters as leases expire at each of its sites.
All leases are held by Cooke Aquaculture, and the last will mature in 2025.
Since December, Cooke Aquaculture has seen two of its leases revoked by the state for failing to maintain safe facilities.
“The irresponsible negligence of the company has endangered the health of our waters and our people, and it will not be tolerated,” said Washington State Public Land Commissioner Hilary Franz during the recall. lease for the site where the fish spill occurred last year.
“The economic, cultural and recreational resources of these incredible waters will no longer be jeopardized by the negligent actions of the industry,” said Senator Ranker after the passage of the bill.On August 19, 2017, the collapse of a Cooke Aquaculture basin off the west coast caused the flight of hundreds of thousands of salmon, raising fears of contamination of the marine environment and the Pacific wild salmon population.
A report released in February by an inquiry committee found that between 242,000 and 262,000 fish escaped.
The report indicates that this leak is due to the collapse of the net pens, poorly cleaned by the New Brunswick company. “The excessive fouling has significantly increased the pressure on the net network,” reads.
Washington State fined Cooke Aquaculture $332,000.
The bill was passed in spite of the efforts of Cooke Aquaculture, which supported an amendment allowing Atlantic salmon farming to continue to use only females. The measure was to ensure that farmed salmon could not reproduce if they escaped into the wild.
In a statement, the company said it was “deeply disappointed” by the state’s decision.
For the Atlantic Salmon Federation’s Neville Crabbe, the measure adopted by the state of Washington demonstrates that attempting to go beyond the biological limits of a species has a negative impact on the Canadian economy.
Fish leaks have also occurred in eastern Canadian waters, says Crabbe. This has a devastating effect on the environment, he explains.
Wherever the open-net culture industry has grown on the east coast of North America, wild salmon populations have fallen.
Neville Crabbe, Atlantic Salmon Federation.
When farmed fish escape and breed in wild salmon habitat, species compete for food and this promotes the spread of disease.
Crabbe does not believe Atlantic Canada will follow Washington’s lead in limiting aquaculture, but says regional officials should take note of recent events if they want to grow the industry on the east coast. .
He would not be surprised to hear voices demanding tougher regulations for farmed fish escapes and disease outbreaks, as well as greater transparency in the industry.
An industry that raises concerns
As the name implies, Atlantic salmon are not native to Pacific waters, but there are fish farms off British Columbia and Washington State. . There are more than 100 Atlantic salmon farms in British Columbia waters, but fewer than 10 in Washington State.
US Senator Kevin Ranker believes that Washington’s decision will have more impact if northern neighbors in British Columbia follow suit.
British Columbia Natural Resources Minister Doug Donaldson says the province is working with First Nations, the aquaculture industry and the Canadian government in its review of mining licenses, many of which are coming to Canada. due in June.
Demonstrations have already taken place in British Columbia. Opponents of aquaculture say that open net farming is too risky for native species, making them vulnerable to viruses and diseases.
Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, says the Canadian government is committed to regulating the aquaculture sector to be responsible and sustainable. “We understand Canadians’ concerns about aquaculture and we are committed to making decisions based on science and scientific evidence. ”
He noted that the federal government has announced a $ 24-million investment in Canada’s Sustainable Aquaculture Program, which aims to simplify regulations, improve management, increase scientific knowledge, improve science-based decision-making, and ensure transparency through the publication of public reports.