Cooke is back, back again

ChaseBallard

bushwhacker
I don't mean to be insulting, but, how long have you been active locally hunting and fishing? I'm a geezer, I've been an active hunter and fisherman for about 63 years. I've always heard the WDFW criticized. I quit steelheading in the lower Cedar in the early 70's, due to complainers, their skill level was the problem. The WDFW has to deal with being the smallest western state with the most people (except California) also the fastest growing state, and everybody wants to be outdoors. Besides a wildlife (not just game) management problem, they have a people management problem, also EVERYBODY is an expert. Funding the work that needs to be done is a huge problem, fewer hunters and fisherman = fewer dollars. More dollars from the general fund are needed. Sometimes the best fix is not attainable. Some people complained in the early 60's about so few elk north of Ellensburg, now many complain about too many elk. Ya can't make everyone happy, BUT, don't yield to negativity.

Nailed it, George. Have you been attending WDFW's Budget and Policy Advisory Group meetings? Because you just neatly summed up about a year of discussion, and resulting chronic underfunding problems.

Perfect or not (clearly not), hopefully stakeholders can band together to address some of these issues this next session in Oly.
 

ChaseBallard

bushwhacker
Folks that want suggested comments and an easy comment form should check out WSC's action alert, feel free to customize your comments: https://bit.ly/33N3bjU

More to come on pressuring Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, DNR and DOE to pushback on their ends...

URGENT: Take action on Puget Sound fish farms
Time is running out to block a dangerous proposal from Cooke Aquaculture to farm ‘steelhead’ in Puget Sound. Take action TODAY calling for a full environmental review!

In 2018 when Governor Jay Inslee signed HB 2957 into law, the bill banning non-native finfish farming in Washington’s waters after 2022, we thought Cooke Aquaculture’s net pens in Puget Sound would soon be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, that may no longer be the case as Cooke Aquaculture is working quickly and quietly to transform their Atlantic salmon net pens into “steelhead” net pens, with little pushback from state regulators. This shocking development is not only an affront to transparent government, but more importantly it is an environmental disaster in the making.

On October 1st, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) advanced a proposal to allow farmed steelhead to be planted in Cooke’s existing Puget Sound net pens, determining that environmental impacts were likely to be non-significant. For public review, all that was provided was a paltry 30-day comment period.

We cannot allow this fish farm bait and switch to become a reality, so it is critical we speak up today and send a loud and clear message to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife that the state needs to conduct a more thorough environmental review process. This review is especially needed since the state’s current analysis relies on a decades-old EIS with limited supplemental information, which is absurd and totally insufficient for an inherently high-risk project operated by a company with an abysmal safety record.
Steelhead net pens could have major repercussions on Washington’s wild steelhead populations. Not only would these net pens be a massive source of pollution and have the potential to spread deadly diseases and viruses to wild fish, but escaped farmed fish could interbreed with wild steelhead stocks and dilute the genetic pool. While the project calls for the use of triploid (sterile) steelhead, this sterilization is not 100 percent successful, making the risk of interbreeding very likely in the event of a catastrophic spill.

Please take a minute to tell the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct a full environmental review of this perilous proposal. Our iconic state fish are far too important to Washington’s people, economy, and ecosystem to risk them by dangerously rushing through this important environmental review process.

Suggested Comments to SEPA WDFW
Email: [email protected]

Please Conduct an EIS for the Proposed Steelhead Net Pens

As a passionate wild steelhead angler, I am writing to respectfully request that you conduct a full environmental impact statement (EIS) for Cooke Aquaculture’s proposed steelhead net pen operation. These net pens pose a significant risk to Puget Sound’s ESA-listed steelhead stocks and water quality, and Washingtonians deserve a full and meticulous examination of the environmental impacts of this proposed project.

In 2018 when the Washington legislature passed HB 2957, which banned nonnative finfish farming in Washington’s waters after 2022, I thought Washington’s wild fish and waters would soon be free of the threat of Cooke Aquaculture’s destructive net pens. Therefore, the prospect of Cooke Aquaculture planting millions of non-native steelhead in net pens in Puget Sound is quite concerning to me, especially given that these steelhead net pens are far more dangerous to Washington’s struggling native steelhead populations than the Atlantic salmon net pens are.

Steelhead net pens would have major repercussions on Washington’s wild steelhead populations. Not only would these net pens be a massive source of pollution and have the potential to spread deadly diseases and viruses to wild fish, but escaped farmed steelhead could interbreed with wild stocks and dilute the genetic pool. While the project guarantees the use of triploid (sterile) steelhead, this sterilization is not 100 percent successful, making the risk of interbreeding very likely in the event of a catastrophic spill. And considering Cooke Aquaculture’s recent safety record, which includes a net pen breach where more than 250,000 Atlantic salmon escaped into the Puget Sound, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife should be seriously concerned about these environmental threats.

Given this substantial risk, it is hard to understand why the Department is relying on an EIS that is nearly three-decades-old as the basis of its environmental review. After years of having net pens operating in Puget Sound and waters across the world, we know much more about the environmental impacts of nets pens, especially those rearing native fish. As a result, this decades-old EIS and the limited supplemental information are insufficient as an environmental review for an inherently high-risk project operated by a company with an abysmal safety record.

Puget Sound’s wild steelhead, which are in such dire shape that they are protected under the Endangered Species Act, are far too important to Washington’s people, economy, and ecosystem to risk by dangerously rushing through this important environmental review process. Please protect Washington’s wild steelhead and the interests of Washingtonians, who overwhelmingly supported banning Cooke’s net pen operation in state waters, by conducting a full environmental impact statement for this proposed transition to steelhead net pens.

Thank you for your consideration of this request,
 

GeorgeV

WFF Supporter
Refresh my memory, didn't the Atlantic salmon net enclosure sink due to lack of maintenance? They were fined also if my memory is working. They do provide a few jobs, but not enough for the gamble, they shot themselves in the dorsal fin. Run 'en outa town.
 

Bob Newman

Active Member
Anyone remember what happened in Norway ? They had Atlantic Salmon net pens in almost every fjord and almost every stream that had a run of Atlantic’s crashed because of the net pen fish. So what makes these folks think the same thing won’t happen here, not to mention that our steelhead runs are almost toast now.
 

_WW_

Geriatric Skagit Swinger
WFF Supporter
Anyone remember what happened in Norway ? They had Atlantic Salmon net pens in almost every fjord and almost every stream that had a run of Atlantic’s crashed because of the net pen fish. So what makes these folks think the same thing won’t happen here, not to mention that our steelhead runs are almost toast now.
In my interactions with WDFW I have noticed a strong tendency to wear blinders when it comes to what happens in other areas outside their control. Such as where BC has figured out that fish management involves a lot of people management, i.e. the classified waters. Or Oregon's Deschutes River regulations that limit the number of boaters and fishing from boats. There are lots of examples out there they could look at that could affect our recreational impact.

However, I also think that their concept of recreational angling is salt water and Columbia River oriented first, with everything else falling in line behind that. And everything in that last sentence lines up behind commercial fishing.
 

Chucker

Chucking a dead parrot on a piece of string!
Anyone remember what happened in Norway ? They had Atlantic Salmon net pens in almost every fjord and almost every stream that had a run of Atlantic’s crashed because of the net pen fish. So what makes these folks think the same thing won’t happen here
What makes these folks think that the same thing has not been happening here for the last 30 years?
 
  • Like
Reactions: JS

JS

Active Member
I don't mean to be insulting, but, how long have you been active locally hunting and fishing? I'm a geezer, I've been an active hunter and fisherman for about 63 years. I've always heard the WDFW criticized. I quit steelheading in the lower Cedar in the early 70's, due to complainers, their skill level was the problem. The WDFW has to deal with being the smallest western state with the most people (except California) also the fastest growing state, and everybody wants to be outdoors. Besides a wildlife (not just game) management problem, they have a people management problem, also EVERYBODY is an expert. Funding the work that needs to be done is a huge problem, fewer hunters and fisherman = fewer dollars. More dollars from the general fund are needed. Sometimes the best fix is not attainable. Some people complained in the early 60's about so few elk north of Ellensburg, now many complain about too many elk. Ya can't make everyone happy, BUT, don't yield to negativity.

Well, depends on where you start counting, but nearly or all of my 36 years. Seems like you have more under your belt. All I am saying is that criticizing WDFW isn’t the problem.
 

JS

Active Member
Additionally, I’ve never advocated defunding the dept. I happily pay my dues.

I think you said something poignant when you said, “locally”. The answer to that is never. I am not from the Seattle area. Down in the lowerColumbia basin we don’t face the same challenges. We have our own set of issues to deal with, and population, closing water due to poor returns, etc, have not been the same problems for us. I spend 60-70 days ayear fishing in OR, which is 20 miles away from me, as opposed to 40-50 in WA.

I digress. We definitely need to come together to increase funding, but I don’t think its criticism of WDFW that is creating our problems.
 

GeorgeV

WFF Supporter
Defunding creates more problems. When you come to the table or come to a public meeting, the goal is to find a solution, not to place blame. "Everybody at the WDFG is a jerk, no matter what you do I'm aginit," will solve nothing. Many people don't listen well. First define and get consensus on what the problem is, now everyone should be working on the same thing. In my experience using a mediator to "referee" increases productivity, by keeping everyone on track. I think the WDFG does a pretty good job. Negativity never solved anything.
 

Salmo_g

WFF Supporter
I think the WDFG does a pretty good job.

How do you define "a pretty good job?"

Here's a few things that I think detract from "a pretty good job:"

1. Claims to value transparency but conducts negotiations with treaty tribes behind closed doors, making decisions to reduce recreational fishing absent constituent input;

2. Produces and provides more fish to constituents who contribute the least to Department funding (raising hatchery salmon for Canadian harvest and WA commercial harvest);

3. Closes the Stillaguamish sport fishing season for 3 1/2 months because the tribe "felt strongly that any level of fishing by anglers on the river would be detrimental to wild Chinook," which is unsupported by data, and the real reason WDFW closed sport fishing was so that the tribes wouldn't veto the NOF PS marine and freshwater sport fishing season, basically being dishonest with anglers;

4. Proposes to close the Skagit steelhead season as a lower priority than using financial resources for other activities that produce less recreational angling;

5. Cuts 3 weeks of early spring trout fishing in central WA seep lakes to simplify regulations, and inaccurately citing National Wildlife Refuge regulations as the reason;

6. Double crossed sport fishermen by rescinding the lower Columbia River 2013 policy to phase out non-treaty gillnetting;

7. Closed the lower Skokomish River to sportfishing based on alleged, not adjudicated, tribal claims of river ownership.

These are a few reasons why I'm reluctant to reward the Department with even more of my money when they reward us with less fishing opportunity.
 

Bruce Baker

Active Member
Here is an update.

Ecology revises Puget Sound net pen permits for steelhead​

Additional requirements added to strengthen permits, protect water quality​

OLYMPIA – After public review and feedback, the Washington Department of Ecology has revised four water quality permits to allow sterile, all-female steelhead to be raised in marine net pens, instead of Atlantic salmon.

The permit revisions are part of the multi-agency permitting process Cooke Aquaculture went through to change the type of fish it raises in four Puget Sound net pens from non-native Atlantic salmon to native steelhead, also known as rainbow trout. The facilities are located near Bainbridge Island and La Conner.

After receiving approval from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to switch species, the company needed Ecology’s approval for updated water quality permits.

In response to the company’s application, Ecology drafted revised permits and took public feedback from Sept. 9 through Oct. 26, 2020, receiving 147 submissions. All documents, including Ecology’s response to comments, are at ecology.wa.gov/NetPenPermit.

While Ecology determined that switching species would not change potential impacts on water quality, the agency strengthened regulations in the permits to ensure water quality is protected. Additional requirements include:
• Clarification that any fish reared in Cooke’s net pens are prohibited from release.
• Added requirements and details on how to notify state agencies of events that could potentially lead to fish escape.
• Increased monitoring and reporting of potential fish escape during stocking and harvesting.
• Added reporting for fish feed consumption.
• Added details on how nets must be maintained.
• Added a requirement to study new technologies and propose alternatives that reduce or prevent discharge of uneaten feed or metabolic waste.
All net pens operated by Cooke are currently empty, with Atlantic salmon harvest completed in October 2020.

Additional background
Legislature banned non-native fish farming
In 2018, the Legislature approved a ban on non-native net pen fish farming; the ban goes into effect in 2022. The law does not prohibit native finfish aquaculture.

Aquatic lands leases expire in 2022
Cooke Aquaculture’s aquatic lands leases with the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) expire in 2022. For Cooke Aquaculture to continue fish farming with native fish beyond 2022, DNR would need to renew the aquatic lands leases.

Water quality permits expire in 2024
Ecology’s revised water quality permits are consistent with the timelines of the Legislature and the Department of Natural Resources. If Cooke Aquaculture’s aquatic lands leases are not renewed in 2022, Ecology’s water quality permits give the company two years to clean up and remove the net pens.

Ecology last updated the net pen permits in July 2019 to include increased protections for water quality based on lessons learned from the 2017 net pen collapse at the Cooke Cypress Island site. To learn more about the water quality permits updated in 2019, read the July 11, 2019, news release.

State authority
• Department of Fish and Wildlife regulates ecological impacts of marine aquaculture to prevent disease and harmful effects to wild stocks.
• Department of Ecology regulates marine net pen aquaculture to protect water quality through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.
• Department of Natural Resources manages the aquatic lands leases for net pens.
 

duggiefresh

Active Member
OLYMPIA – After public review and feedback, the Washington Department of Ecology has revised four water quality permits to allow sterile, all-female steelhead to be raised in marine net pens, instead of Atlantic salmon.

The permit revisions are part of the multi-agency permitting process Cooke Aquaculture went through to change the type of fish it raises in four Puget Sound net pens from non-native Atlantic salmon to native steelhead, also known as rainbow trout. The facilities are located near Bainbridge Island and La Conner.

Bold parts are my emphasis. So are they just raising farmed rainbow trout? I always thought that rainbows had to go to salt to change into steelhead. No intention of opening up the pandora's box by asking "What makes a steelhead steelhead?"
 

_WW_

Geriatric Skagit Swinger
WFF Supporter
Bold parts are my emphasis. So are they just raising farmed rainbow trout? I always thought that rainbows had to go to salt to change into steelhead. No intention of opening up the pandora's box by asking "What makes a steelhead steelhead?"
To point out the obvious, they are going to raise them in saltwater. Truth in marketing!:)
 

Jake Dogfish

Active Member
Cooke has farms all over the Globe. They are willing to do anything to keep farms here for the purpose of disease introduction, which gains them greater market share and inflates the value of their inferior product.
 

Support WFF | Remove the Ads

Support WFF by upgrading your account. Site supporters benefits include no ads and access to some additional features, few now, more in the works. Info
Top