Cooke battling cross-border bad luck

William Stoichevski

Salmon-grower’s recent troubles defy belief.

Besieged Canadian salmon-farmer, Cooke Aquaculture, has gone all-out this week to assure people on the east and west coasts of North American that far from being an environmental menace, the company’s a reliable modernizer and creator of high-wage jobs.

In Nova Scotia, after a series of savage winter storms, the company was in damage-control mode after waves reportedly toppled anti-bird nets and scattered feed equipment.

“Some of Kelly Cove’s Salmon infrastructure in the Jordan Bay Area was impacted but the containment systems held up and there is no fish loss,” Cooke communications officer, Chuck Brown, told SalmonBusiness late on Wednesday. Kelly Cove Salmon was the company’s name when the Cooke brothers started the business in Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick over 30 years ago.

“Our crews continue to clean up debris from the water and from shore, make repairs and conduct thorough inspections above and below the surface of the water,” Brown said.

Read Cooke Aquaculture debris washes ashore in storm
Read Cooke wild-salmon farm a world first
Read Washington hearings on salmon-farming “not justified”

In Washington, meanwhile, Cooke was at a State Senate hearing defending its reputation, its future as a salmon-farmer in the state and any industry ambitions there. In December, the State cancelled one of its permits to work, and now against a backdrop of recent mass salmon escapes at its Empress Island farm, Cooke has felt compelled to point to the modernizing that was underway at the other farms purchased from Icicle Seafood in 2016.

A Cooke site manager was on-hand at the hearing in Olympia, Washington to testify that the company’s Hope Island Fish Farm near Anacortes was being modernized, and that others were being updated in-turn. The company, it turns out, had made “significant investments upon acquiring the farm in 2016, including in new environmental monitoring and feeding systems using the best technology and expertise from around the world”.

Other documents from Cyprus Island showed Cooke informing state regulators that they its newly acquired pens would all have to be replaced. To that effect, the company had sought a permit to buy a USD 1.4 million replacement.

Fish people
When its Port Angeles lease was cancelled by the state, it, too, was being modernized. Now, company VP of public relations, Joel Richardson, said in a statement that the company “is prepared to make the investments needed to bring these facilities up to world class standards.”

“We are fish people,” Richardson stated. “We support net-pen aquaculture and the enhancement of open fisheries. We require clean water for our farms to prosper. We only recently acquired these Washington farms.”

Parallel with the hearings, Cooke had filed suit against the State for revoking the permit needed to run the Port Angeles lease. “We are not commenting further on that lawsuit,” Richardson said.

Its Washington State and Maritime Canada storms aren’t the only bits of bad luck the company has had in recent years. In April 2013, Kelly Cove execs pleaded guilty to using illegal pesticide, cypermethrin and causing lobster deaths in the Bay of Fundy only to learn via a U.S.-Canada investigation that the company had been sold the wrong lice treatment by a supplier in the U.S. state of Maine.

The supplier pleaded guilty.

In a late Thursday note to SalmonBusiness, Nova Scotia Environment enforcement staff said that they “visited the Cooke Aquaculture site in Jordan Bay on January 9 and an inspection was completed. No violations were found. There was some debris and the company will be required to clean that up. Our staff will follow up to ensure the cleanup has been completed.



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