State hearings could decide fate of Cooke and salmon-farming in Washington State
A Washington State Senate hearing in western U.S. town Olympia on a bill to eradicate salmon farming was coupled on Tuesday with an emergency bill proposal to immediately shut the industry down, the Seattle Times has reported.
For Cooke Aquaculture Pacific, with its 15,000 tonnes of salmon-production in Washington, the bill would effectively kill any chance at renewing its leases and permits once expired. Joel Richardson, Cooke’s VP of communications, told the hearing that 80 Washington jobs at Cooke farms, its Seattle processing plant and a complement of harvest boats were at risk.
“All this … is not justified,” Richardson was quoted by the newspaper as saying.
Bill SB 6086, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Kevin Ranker, was heard against the pleas of Cooke employees who had attended the hearing in their work clothes together with Native Americans citing competing claims to “threatened” wild salmon. Sen. Maralyn Chase, another Democrat, was on hand hoping to drive out a salmon business that she said, “isn’t worth the risk to Puget Sound”, site of Cooke’s Cypress Island fish-farm collapse and mass-escapee event in August 2017.
“With the state spending hundreds of millions of dollars to revive struggling wild Pacific salmon runs, raising invasive Atlantic salmon that we classify by state law as a pollutant makes no sense,” Ranker said in his remarks.
As their Canadian counterparts, U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife officials (reportedly silent throughout the proceedings) have repeatedly reported to the state that risks posed to local Pacific salmon by Atlantic salmon were low. Despite the distances swum by escapee Atlantics, past government efforts to fill the Pacific Northwest’s rivers with Atlantics had all failed.
Wild salmon legislative activity, however, has not stalled in the U.S. There’s a long list of bills and hearings — including the Save our Salmon Act of June 2016; the hearing on bills to protect endangered salmon of 2017 and the Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act of 2013 — as legislators bow to limited science and woo Westcoast voter segments while battling their opponents’ perceived lack of green credentials.
The Washington Legislature has created a bill comment form for sending messages to state lawmakers.