Groups sue state over Cooke steelhead farms

  • Friday, February 14, 2020 1:30am
  • News

MOUNT VERNON — Four nonprofits filed a joint lawsuit Tuesday against the state Department of Fish & Wildlife for issuing a permit for steelhead farms in the marine waters of Skagit and Kitsap counties.

The Skagit Valley Herald reported Wild Fish Conservancy, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth argue that allowing Cooke Aquaculture to raise steelhead in floating net pens would jeopardize the region’s wild steelhead, salmon and endangered Southern Resident orca whales.

“We need to be doing everything we can to save our wild salmon and orcas,” Sophia Ressler, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a press release.

“Fish feedlots simply don’t belong in wild salmon waters. These net pens undermine the crucial work that has gone into restoring native fish runs.”

Threatened species

Puget Sound steelhead, including those from the Skagit River, have been listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act since 2007.

Cooke Aquaculture and the wildlife agency did not respond to requests for comment.

The groups behind the lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court say exposure to farm-grown steelhead could put the wild species at increased risk of disease and genetic impacts from interbreeding.

They are particularly concerned because of Cooke Aquaculture’s history of growing Atlantic salmon in area waters.

In August 2017, one of the company’s farms near Cypress Island in Skagit County collapsed under the weight of debris the company neglected to clean off, and the majority of the 300,000 fish in that net pen escaped.

Last October, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and Cooke Aquaculture Pacific LLC announced they were teaming up to restart a dormant fish farm in Port Angeles Harbor despite Cooke’s lawsuit against the state Department of Natural Resources.

They said they would rear black cod and sterile all-female rainbow trout-steelhead there.

More in News

Bills to limit size of firearm magazines fail in Legislature

Bills that would have limited how many rounds can be… Continue reading

Teens lead Tarboo Valley tree-planting

On a rare break from the rain, students from Port… Continue reading

Port Townsend woman dies while driving

State Patrol: She suffered medical emergency causing crash

University women in Jefferson County offering scholarships

The University Women’s Foundation of Jefferson County, an affiliate… Continue reading

Volunteers sought for annual River Cleanup event in Forks

The Olympic Peninsula Guides’ Association will host its annual River… Continue reading

Port Townsend hires public works director

Steve King to start new position March 23

Most Read