The former work area and office of Cooke Aquaculture Pacific west of the Coast Guard station on Ediz Hook is shown in December 2017. (Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News)

The former work area and office of Cooke Aquaculture Pacific west of the Coast Guard station on Ediz Hook is shown in December 2017. (Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News)

Cooke settles suit with Wild Fish Conservancy

PORT ANGELES — Cooke Aquaculture has agreed to pay $2.75 million to settle with the Wild Fish Conservancy over alleged Clean Water Act violations related to the collapse of Cooke’s Cypress Island net pen.

Those funds will go to the Rose Foundation to fund environmental projects to protect wild salmon and killer whales in Puget Sound, as well as WFC’s litigation expenses, according to a press release. Cooke also agreed to change its practices and address additional concerns identified in the lawsuit.

“This is truly a victory for the future of our sound,” said Kurt Beardslee, executive director of Wild Fish Conservancy. “Open water net pen aquaculture is a risky business, and thanks to this settlement we are one step closer to getting this dirty industry out of Puget Sound once and for all.”

Earlier this year Cooke Aquaculture, which owns a fish farm off Ediz Hook, agreed to pay a $332,000 fine for releasing 250,000 non-native fish that breached its compromised Cypress Island facility in August 2017.

Wild Fish Conservancy issued a notice of violations in August 2017, days after the Cypress Island pen collapsed and spilled Atlantic salmon infected with an exotic virus into Puget Sound.

Cooke announced in October that it was teaming up with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe to restart its dormant fish farm in the Port Angeles Harbor. Public comment on that project closed Nov. 22.

Trial in the federal lawsuit was set to begin Dec. 2. Days before the trial, U.S. District Judge John Coughenour issued several summary judgments supporting WFC’s claims.

The court found that Cooke failed to conduct required inspections of net pen moorings and anchors and that Cooke failed to accurately monitor and report the number of fish escaping form its pens.

Cooke had argued that it should not have to pay civil penalties because its pen was destroyed and no longer operates, an assertion Coughenour rejected.

“Now, it seems clear that Cypress 2 is permanently closed, but Defendant continues its operations in Puget Sound,” Coughenour wrote. “Thus, civil penalties still serve to deter future Clean Water Act violations.”

“We’re thankful for the Judge’s ruling and hope the severity of these penalties will be a deterrent to anyone seeking to expand or establish open water net pen aquaculture in Puget Sound and beyond,” Beardslee said.

The agreement with Cooke requires Cooke to conduct load analysis before restocking its facilities.

It must also complete any “upgrades, modifications and/or replacements determined to be necessary to meet applicable safety standards.”

Cooke is required to notify the WFC within two weeks of completion of upgrades, modifications or replacements.

The company will also create records for each inspection of the mooring system or main cage system and maintain those records for at least three years.

Of the $2.75 million settlement, $1.15 million will go to the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, which will be paid no later than June 30, 2022.

The remaining $1.6 million covers litigation expenses and costs, including attorney and expert fees.


Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected]

More in News

Nurse Jessica Franz, shows a photo of her mother-in-law, Elaine Franz, outside Olathe Medical Center after working the graveyard shift Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Olathe, Kan. Elaine Franz died Nov. 10, one day before her 78th birthday, after contracting COVID-19. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Empty seats, delivered feasts as virus changes Thanksgiving

By Regina Garcia Cano, Matt Sedensky and Heather Hollingsworth | The Associated… Continue reading

‘Christmas Cabin’ starts Wednesday in Port Angeles

The Answer For Youth and the Sprouting Hope Greenhouse… Continue reading

Holiday craft sale scheduled in Sequim

The Shipley Center will host a Holiday Crafts Sale from… Continue reading

First Teacher online meeting features Santa Claus

Santa Claus will be the guest at a First Teacher… Continue reading

First vaccines expected in mid-December

Initial shots for front-line workers

Port Angeles Food Bank Executive Director Emily Dexter stands outside the food bank's new warehouse and distribution center at 632 N. Oakridge Drive near the Port Angeles Walmart. The covered canopy area will become the food bank's drive-thru distribution lane. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Port Angeles Food Bank moving to larger building

Site offers more refrigeration, covered distribution point

Downtown retail stores in Port Townsend were closed Thursday for Thanksgiving, but many are planning promotions for Small Business Saturday. Local retailers across the North Olympic Peninsula are offering a variety of sales and promotions this weekend for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. (Zach Jablonski/Peninsula Daily News)
Motto on North Olympic Peninsula is to shop locally

Retailers offer post-Thanksgiving sales

Working on Thanksgiving in the Tri-Area Community Center kitchen are Anita Schmucker, center, and her foster kids, from left, Mya, Rosemary, Friday and Sadie. The family helped prepare some 300 dinners at the Chimacum center Thursday. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)
Tri-Area community feast serves nearly 350 people

Volunteers cook, provide carry-out for drive-up guests

PASD joins move to remote learning on Peninsula

The Port Angeles School District will join other districts… Continue reading

Most Read