MacEwen, Walsh introduce legislation to ban Atlantic salmon farms in Washington state

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

CONTACT: Kelley Payne, Senior Public Information Officer for Rep. Jim Walsh | 360-786-7761
Nick Jacob, Senior Public Information Officer for Rep. Drew MacEwen | 360-786-5097

MacEwen, Walsh introduce legislation to ban Atlantic salmon farms in Washington state

House Republican Reps. Drew MacEwen and Jim Walsh have introduced a bill to ban Atlantic salmon farming in marine waters regulated by Washington state. The legislation comes on the heels of an August incident in which a net pen containing 305,000 Atlantic salmon collapsed near Cypress Island, allowing more than half of the salmon to escape into Puget Sound. It was the fourth such incident since 1996.

Despite the collapse at the salmon farm operated by Cooke Aquaculture, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recently approved a permit for the company to rear one million more Atlantic salmon at a different facility in Puget Sound.

Rep. Drew MacEwen says enough is enough.

“It simply doesn’t make sense to continue allowing Atlantic salmon farms to operate in Washington state,” said MacEwen, R-Union. “Escaped Atlantic salmon pose serious risks to native Pacific salmon with regard to competition for resources, and also threaten the survival of Pacific juveniles. It’s time we close these farms and put strong policies in place that enable our Pacific salmon populations to thrive.”

Although recovery efforts have been underway for decades, Pacific salmon populations in Washington state remain in danger, with multiple runs listed as threatened or endangered.

Rep. Jim Walsh, who called for an end to Atlantic salmon farms in an op-ed earlier this year, is the prime co-sponsor of the bill.

“We need to boost the stocks of our native salmon by building on our own resources rather than continuing to cultivate an invasive species,” said Walsh, R-Aberdeen. “As we’ve seen, farming Atlantic salmon in Washington waters is, at best, a nuisance and, at worst, a catastrophe.”

Also supportive of the legislation is Arnold Cooper, Squaxin Island Tribal Chairman. The Squaxin Island Tribe operates a net pen complex in South Puget Sound in cooperation with WDFW, releasing 700,000 Coho each year and providing vital fisheries for tribal and sports fishermen.

“We support banning Atlantic salmon aquaculture from our waters,” said Chairman Arnold Cooper. “Continuing to allow Atlantic salmon aquaculture means future spills are inevitable. Future spills mean Atlantic salmon will compete with native fish for wild food, and they also mean we risk Atlantic salmon colonizing. Our tribe has always depended on natural resources, so there is no acceptable margin of error for us in protecting our way of life and our economy. While we know raising native salmon temporarily in net pens is an effective way to provide fisheries, non-native species like Atlantic salmon have no place in the Pacific Northwest.”

The 2018 legislative session, which will run for 60 consecutive days, begins Jan. 8.


Washington State House Republican Communications