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Know the West

Washington state bans salmon farms

An escape of non-native salmon prompted the state to shut down aquaculture.


In August 2017, a fish-farm pen run by Cooke Aquaculture collapsed, and tens of thousands of non-native Atlantic salmon escaped into Puget Sound. Coastal tribes, especially the Lummi, scrambled to capture them, fearing they would imperil the native salmon the tribes rely on. Gov. Jay Inslee, D, put a moratorium on new net-pen leases, and the state’s Department of Natural Resources began a review of Cooke’s operations (“When Atlantic salmon escape in the Pacific, who cleans up?HCN, 1/22/18).


Washington has now banned the practice altogether, ending three decades of Atlantic salmon farming in the state’s waters. Inslee signed the bill in mid-March, saying "these (net-pens) present a risk to our wild salmon runs that we cannot tolerate.” He also vetoed a provision allowing lawmakers to reconsider the ban if new research becomes available. The leases of the remaining fish farms, which are all owned by Cooke, expire in 2022.