Seafood industry seeks impartial inquiry into Washington State’s non-renewal of Cooke’s leases

A decision tantamount to kicking Canadian seafood company Cooke Aquaculture out of Washington State has the seafood industry up in arms.

On Wednesday, leading seafood trade industry in the United States slammed the decision of the State of Washington’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to not renew the leases for Cooke Aquaculture Pacific’s steelhead farms in Washington waters.

The Northwest Aquaculture Alliance (NWAA), National Fisheries Institute (NFI), and the National Aquaculture Association (NAA) are calling for an independent review of DNR’s decision by one or more third parties, such as the University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences.

“This was not a decision based on science,” said NWAA President and CEO of tribally owned Jamestown Seafood, Jim Parsons. “If that were the case, we would be seeing a very different decision.”

Read also: Cooke Aquaculture says it was blindsided by Washington State decision, will explore options to keep operations

Parsons, who was general manager at Cooke Aquaculture Pacific for three years until August 2021, said the DNR has ignored the best available science in terminating Cooke’s marine net pen leases.

He cited rulings from  NOAA, the state Supreme Court, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Washington Department of Ecology, to name a few, that found that marine aquaculture does not harm endangered species or wild fish stocks.

“Washington State has apparently decided to ignore the enormous body of science that shows marine aquaculture, as it is practiced today, has a negligible impact on other fish species or on the environment,” said Parsons, adding that the decision will have devastating consequences for local rural communities.

‘Disappointing,’ says NFI
Gavin Gibbons, Vice President for Communications at the National Fisheries Institute, said the decision is particularly disappointing especially as it comes at a time when “important efforts to grow the US aquaculture sector are underway.”

“Aquaculture has the ability to sustainably and affordably increase the availability of the healthiest animal protein on the planet, while also producing jobs — an impressive combination,” he said.

‘No one benefits,’ says NAA
Sebastian Belle, President of the National Aquaculture Association, said that “in this instance where science is ignored, which is so very critical to achieving excellence in governance and finding a balance between man and nature, no one benefits. We strongly support an independent review by objective scientists and hope the citizens of Puget Sound will agree.”





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