Riley Starks of Lummi Island Wild shows three of the farm raised Atlantic salmon that were caught alongside healthy kings in Point Williams on Aug. 22. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times via AP)

Riley Starks of Lummi Island Wild shows three of the farm raised Atlantic salmon that were caught alongside healthy kings in Point Williams on Aug. 22. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times via AP)

Inspection finds maintenance flaws at Cooke salmon net pens off Bainbridge Island

The Associated Press

OLYMPIA — State officials said an inspection has found maintenance issues at Cooke Aquaculture’s farmed salmon operation off Bainbridge Island.

The state Department of Natural Resources on Monday issued a default notice and gave the company 60 days to fix the problems.

Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz said in a statement that they need to ensure Cooke’s salmon farms are structurally sound, given the Aug. 19 collapse at its Cypress Island facility.

Tens of thousands of non-native Atlantic salmon were released into Puget Sound.

A contractor hired by DNR found issues at Cooke’s farms in Rich Passage, including a hole in netting and severe corrosion on floating piers.

DNR said companies that lease state aquatic lands must maintain property in good order.

If the company cannot make repairs in 60 days, its lease can be terminated.

Another state agency approved a permit last week for Cooke to stock its Rich Passage net pens with 1 million juvenile Atlantic salmon from a hatchery near Rochester.

Cooke did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Given the failure of the Cypress Island facility, we have to be extra vigilant in making sure Cooke’s other existing aquaculture facilities are structurally sound,” said Franz. “We cannot tolerate any risk that more Atlantic salmon will be released in Washington’s waters.”

After the failure of the Cypress Island net pen, Franz ordered a moratorium on new Atlantic salmon net pen facilities on state-owned aquatic lands managed by DNR.

Gov. Jay Inslee also directed his agencies to issue no permits for new aquaculture net pens while the incident was being investigated.

Current laws and administrative rules do not give state regulators the authority to deny Cooke’s permit to move healthy fish into an existing net pen, according to the DNR statement.

The Cypress Island collapse is still under investigation and efforts to recover the escaped fish are ongoing.

About half of the 305,000 fish from the collapsed pen are thought to have escaped, according to DNR.

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