The state’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife will allow Cooke Aquaculture to move up to 365,000 juvenile rainbow trout from a hatchery to a marine net pen near Hope Island.
This mesh enclosure, also known as a fish farm, sits in the water between the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Reserve on Fidalgo Island and Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island.
“For Swinomish, this decision will harm our cultural resources and practices, interfere with our treaty fishing rights and cause further damage to our endangered Skagit River salmon stocks,” said Swinomish President Steve Edwards , in a press release regarding the permit to allow the fish to be moved into the net pen.
The fish will be moved from a hatchery in Rochester by the end of September.
The state’s decision to allow the fish to be placed in the net pen became official Thursday when Director of Fisheries and Wildlife Kelly Susewind signed the permit application.
The site of the net enclosure is in habitat used by Chinook Salmon and Rainbow Trout from the Skagit River, listed in the Endangered Species Act, as well as in the area usual fishing grounds of the Swinomish tribe.
âThe Hope Island mesh enclosure interferes with our way of life, and it needs to be removed, not revived,â said Edwards.
Atlantic salmon were previously farmed at the Hope Island net pen and others in the area. Following the collapse of one of these net pens – and the flight of about 300,000 non-native fish – in 2017, the state legislature instituted a phase-out of non-native fish farming in ‘by 2022.
In response, Cooke Aquaculture proposed in 2019 to replace its facilities with a native species and breed all-female fish that were sterilized in the laboratory. The proposal relates to an ongoing litigation scheduled for a hearing in the state’s Supreme Court on September 28.
The environmental groups behind the litigation – Wild Fish Conservancy, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth – argue that the proposal should require an environmental impact assessment, or EIA, under the State. Environmental Policy Act.
The groups claim that fish farms are not only dangerous because of the risk of collapse as observed in 2017, but also because, under normal operating conditions, they can have an impact on the quality of the fish. water and introduce disease – factors that can affect native wildlife such as the endangered Skagit River and southern salmon. Resident killer whales.
“The storage of this facility has the potential to contaminate our waters and threaten species so dear to our Puget Sound ecosystem,” Center for Biological Diversity lawyer Sophia Ressler said in a press release.
Cooke Aquaculture applied for a permit in June. It requires Cooke Aquaculture to provide Fish and Wildlife and two other state agencies with advance notice of the fish transport, as well as a post-transport report of its success or challenges.
The license also requires Cooke Aquaculture to notify the three state agencies before harvesting adult fish in the net pen, and to provide a report on harvesting activities – including if any of the fish escape during the process.
Among other permit details, Fish and Wildlife requires annual fish health assessment reports.