After 40 years, the Net Pen Industry is Pulling Up Anchors, Towing Away Their Net Pens, & Leaving Puget Sound Forever

After 40 years, the Net Pen Industry is Pulling Up Anchors, Towing Away Their Net Pens, & Leaving Puget Sound Forever


Friends and Supporters,

We couldn’t be more thrilled to share, WE DID IT!

The historic moment and enormous victory we’ve been striving for together since we launched the Our Sound, Our Salmon campaign in 2017 is finally here. Thanks to you and the dedication and hard work of thousands of individuals, hundreds of businesses and organizations, countless Tribal Nations, elected officials, scientists, and so many others working together, the commercial net pen industry is pulling up stakes, hitting the road, and leaving Puget Sound forever.

All week, local residents and members of the public stood on the shores of Bainbridge Island watching workers operating loaders and cranes packing up nets, removing debris, and pulling up anchors and chains that have been holding the industry’s net pens in place for over forty years. 

Across the Sound, in Kiket Bay, local landowners watched in celebration and awe as the Hope Island net pen was rigged up to a towboat and pulled out of sight and away from the waters it polluted daily at the mouth of the Skagit River. Below is a photo taken on Wednesday immediately after the Hope Island net pen was removed, showcasing the bay’s first moments free of commercial net pens.

In November, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz made clear she heard the voices of the nearly 10,000 individuals and hundreds of organizations and businesses working together under the Our Sound, Our Salmon coalition when she issued her groundbreaking decision that the Department of Natural Resources was taking bold action to protect Puget Sound from commercial net pen aquaculture. Not only did Commissioner Franz deny the industry’s request for new decade-long leases to operate in our public waters, but she took an even bolder step by enacting a new policy banning commercial net pen aquaculture in Washington marine waters indefinitely. 

This announcement was celebrated throughout the entire Pacific Coast and by communities around the world working to achieve the same end in their public waters. Commissioner Franz gave Cooke until April 14, 2023 to remove their facilities or face a daily fine for every day they fail to vacate their sites. 

Since that time, Wild Fish Conservancy has been tracking Cooke’s every move and communicating with members of the public and government officials to ensure the company continued to make progress to harvest all remaining fish in compliance with their permits and toward meeting the net pen facility removal deadline.

Now, Puget Sound is only days away from being free of all commercial net pens for the first time in nearly half a century. 

Finally, these heavily polluted and degraded sites will have the opportunity to heal as part of the largest passive restoration project in Washington’s history. What’s more, the complete removal of this industry will restore the public and Tribal access to over 130 acres of Puget Sound that have been restricted and degraded by this industry for over forty years. 

Ending this industry will also eliminate many major risk factors that harm the recovery of wild salmon and steelhead. As we say goodbye to Cooke, we’re also saying goodbye to rampant pollution, goodbye to parasitic and viral outbreaks, and goodbye to catastrophic escape events that have threatened the recovery of wild salmon and the health of Puget Sound for far too long.

Building on this excitement, last week Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson successfully defended DNR and Washington state against another legal attack by Cooke Aquaculture in a last-ditch attempt to reverse Commissioner Franz’s popular and scientifically grounded decision. In a landslide partial summary judgement, the Court ruled in favor of DNR on every count, rejecting Cooke’s claims that Washington state violated agreements with forced closure of net pen operations.

Now, we’re just days away from completely removing this dangerous and risky industry from our public waters. Together, we did it! This historic event and monumental success was only possible because of the hard work and dedication of so many working together over so long toward this end. It is truly inspiring to what the public can accomplish together by unifying our voices and when public officials put their responsibilities to future generations ahead of short-term economic gains. We hope you’ll take time to celebrate all you’ve accomplished for wild fish, orcas, and Puget Sound. We will be sure to keep you updated in the days to come.

We hope you enjoy the photos below that were shared with us capturing in real time this historic moment for Puget Sound.

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