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Newly Proposed Atlantic Salmon Net Pen Threatens Puget Sound Wild Salmon

net pens 1Icicle Seafoods operates all eight Atlantic salmon net pen facilities in Puget Sound. The Port Angeles net pens are currently located in Port Angeles Harbor next to the US Navy port.  The Navy is now expanding their operation forcing that net pen facility to close. As a result, Icicle is seeking permission and permits to replace it with a much larger, open-ocean version that would be placed in the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the east of Port Angeles.  Until now, all net pen facilities in Puget Sound and the Strait have been smaller in size and located in protected waters close to shore.  If this new design is approved, the rest of the region will no longer be safe from net pen expansion.  Icicle Seafoods claims there is great opportunity to significantly expand their Washington net pen production to replace the amount of Atlantic salmon that is currently imported from Chile (Icicle Seafoods PowerPoint – slide 15).

As of May 10, Cooke Aquaculture, an international player in farmed salmon is reportedly set to buy Icicle Seafoods. Icicle has been advertising the economic benefits and opportunities for expanding Atlantic salmon net pens in Puget Sound; Cooke saw it, and bought it (Icicle Seafoods PowerPoint – slides 13 & 15). Cooke Aquaculture is on a recent buying frenzy. In 2014 Cooke bought Scottish salmon farming company Meridian, and with the new acquisition of Icicle Seafoods, Cooke (the a self-proclaimed “family business”) will own Atlantic salmon farms in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Maine, Chile, Spain, Scotland, and now, our back yard, Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Background

Open water Atlantic salmon farms pose an unacceptable health risk to ESA-listed wild salmon and steelhead in Puget Sound. They pollute the nearby ecosystem, and the crowded pens create an environment in which diseases, pathogens, and parasites can multiply rapidly and spread to wild fish.Puget Sound Net Pen map

Currently there are eight Atlantic salmon net pen complexes in Puget Sound. Three are located within Cypress Island Bay; one off Hope Island near the mouth of the Skagit River; one in Port Angeles Harbor; and three just off Bainbridge Island, minutes from downtown Seattle, and situated between two Washington State Parks and the Orchard Rocks Marine Reserve (two of the net pens are actually within the marine reserve's boundaries). All of them are located right smack in the middle of prime wild salmon rearing and migration habitat.

In 2012 all three of the Bainbridge Island net pens had a massive outbreak of Infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus (IHNV) that started in early May during prime juvenile salmon and steelhead outmigration and continued through September.  This deadly outbreak killed hundreds of thousands of adult Atlantic salmon in the pens. The crowded conditions allowed the virus to quickly spread from pen to pen, amplifying the amount of the viral discharge and putting juvenile wild salmon and steelhead at a high risk of infection. During the entire outbreak period, the net pen industry refused to allow WDFW access to monitor the effects this outbreak had on wild fish swimming nearby, violating their lease agreement.

In 2015 Wild Fish Conservancy sued the United StaPuget Sound Net Pens 1tes Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for violations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and for permitting this industry without adequately considering the harmful effects it poses to federally listed wild salmonids. We are presently waiting for the judge to assign a court date.

This is a crucial time for Puget Sound and all its inhabitants, including wild fish. Should we allow the permitting for and expansion of something that risks the health of our delicate ecosystems? We spend millions of public dollars every year to save wild salmon yet we allow risky business to threaten our investment. We have an opportunity to change the current trajectory of an industry that has brought environmental disaster and corruption to other parts of the globe.

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