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Washington state bans Atlantic salmon farming in state waters

By Karen Graham     Mar 3, 2018 in Politics
Seattle - Atlantic salmon net-pen farming will be phased out in Washington state by 2025 under legislation passed by the state Senate on Friday after a tough floor fight and some fancy parliamentary footwork.
After a lengthy debate in the Senate, the legislation finally came to a vote and was passed on a 31-16 vote. The House earlier passed it on a 67-31 vote and it now heads to Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat who has expressed support, according to the Modesto Bee.
It seems the U.S. Congress doesn't have a monopoly on fancy parliamentary procedures to delay passage of legislation. The same thing occurred in Washington state's legislature when New Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture brought in at least six lobbyists, paying $72,000, in a last-minute campaign to defeat the bill and protect their interests in Washington state waters.
The bill was buried under at least 30 amendments from opponents of the bill, and there was a 5 p.m. cutoff looming for passage of legislation from the opposite chamber. The Senate plowed through the amendments, one by one, and backers of the bill used a parliamentary move that allowed debate to continue until 6:30 p.m., reports the Seattle Times.
Floating aquaculture on Puget Sound.
Floating aquaculture on Puget Sound.
Joe Mabel
Opponents continued to debate the amendments anyway, Like other opponents of the bill, Republican Senator Mark Schoesler, the minority leader of the Senate, said he opposed it because “I don’t think we should ban any job creator in this state."
The major sponsor of the bill, Democratic State Senator Kevin Ranker said in a statement: "The state ban is a strong stance to ensure the protection of our marine environment and native salmon populations in the Salish Sea. The economic, cultural, and recreational resources of these incredible waters will no longer be jeopardized by the negligent actions of this industry."
Thousands of Atlantic salmon escape fish farm
Last summer, thousands of Atlantic salmon escaped into Pacific waters east of Victoria after nets containing an estimated 305,000 fish were damaged at a U.S. fish farm owned by Cooke Aquaculture in the San Juan Islands. The company blamed "exceptionally high tides and currents coinciding with this week's solar eclipse" for the failure of the net-pens near Cypress Island.
At the time, Ron Warren, assistant director of the fish program for the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife said strong tidal flows, which are tied to the lunar cycles, not the eclipse itself could be a factor in the damage, along with the amount of fish in the pens, which he estimated at more than 1.3-million kilograms (2.6 million pounds).
"A lot of fish, a lot of weight … certainly could have aided in the compromise of the structure itself," Warren said.
Atlantic salmon fish farming has been a hotly debated issue for years - due to fears the non-native fish could cause harm to the five wild species of Pacific salmon, reports CTV News Canada. However, they are a major aquaculture species in Washington state and British Columbia.
In a statement, Cooke Aquaculture spokesperson Joel Richardson said the company was "deeply disappointed" by the news, adding that 600 rural employees in the state would suffer job losses. He also said the company had planned on investing $75 million in the state.
"We know that we have work to do with our state, tribal and community partners to rebuild public confidence and demonstrate the value that our industry brings to Washington and the world," he said.
More about netpen aquaculture, Atlantic salmon, Washington state, native salmon, Cooke Aquaculture