On November 27th, the Bainbridge Island City Council passed an official resolution declaring support for the Taking Back Our Sound campaign, Wild Fish Conservancy’s competing proposal to lease all waters in Puget Sound leased and degraded by the net pen industry for over three decades.
A RESOLUTION of the City Council of Bainbridge Island,
Washington, hereby declaring the City Council’s support for the Wild Fish Conservancy’s proposal to the Washington Department of Natural Resources to lease aquatic lands in Rich Passage currently leased for commercial marine net pen finfish aquaculture for the purposes of restoring these aquatic lands to their natural state and restoring full access of these aquatic lands for the public’s full benefit, use, and enjoyment.RESOLUTION NO. 2020-18
The resolution urges Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz to deny new leases to Cooke Aquaculture in Rich Passage and to instead lease those same public waters for the Taking Back Our Sound Restoration Project proposal that seeks to eliminate all commercial net pens and the environmental impacts they pose, thereby restoring these industrialized sites and public access to 130 acres of Puget Sound— 54 of which lie in waters surrounding Bainbridge Island.
The Council also encourages all Bainbridge Island residents to sign the Taking Back Our Sound petition to Commissioner Franz which urges the Department of Natural Resources to stop leasing our public waters for net pen aquaculture and to guarantee the public that these waters—currently degraded and restricted for private profit—will be restored and managed for the public’s benefit and use by all citizens.
The resolution, introduced by City Council member Christy Carr, passed with unanimous support form all six council members and was signed by the Mayor. The resolution describes the Council’s concerns over the well-documented risks and environmental impacts posed by three commercial net pens spread across Rich Passage, with specific concern over the impacts to the Orchard Rocks Conservation Area. Two of Cooke’s three net pens in Rich Passage lie directly within this conservation area, designated for special protection in 1998 for the unique and priority habitat it provides for a rich variety of marine plants, mammal, fish, and bird species.
The Council also expresses their concern over the potential for the Bainbridge Island net pens to create a dangerous obstacle and nuisance attraction for marine mammals, including the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population. In April, a Bainbridge Island resident captured video footage of killer whales swimming dangerously close to the net pens in Rich Passage while the industry was operating their harvest vessel. Similarly, sea lions and seals have been observed by local landowners both inside the pens and hauling out on the structures, increasing the risk of harassment, boat strikes, entanglement, consumption of pharmaceuticals, and other chemicals, as well as the potential for unnatural levels of predation on wild fish also falsely attracted to the pens. Local residents captured video evidence of over 100 pinnipeds hauled out on a single pen near Fort Ward Park.
The Council also state’s their concern over the industry’s history of permit violations and mismanagement at the Bainbridge net pen facilities. Violations at these pens includes:
- 1999 net pen facility collapse that released approximately 100,000 non-native salmon into Puget Sound
- 2012 outbreak of Infectious Hematopoietic Necrosis (IHN) that lasted several months, spreading from one to all three net pens in Rich Passage and occurred while juvenile salmon were out-migrating through Rich Passage
- 2017 violations by Cooke Aquaculture that resulted in fines for unlawfully discharging polluting matter into state waters, pressure washing equipment, nets, and vehicles over the water and allowing wastewater to enter Puget Sound, changing boat engine oil over the water, failing to put safeguards in place to protect water quality, failing to correct water quality violations when directed
- 2019 partial failure of one of Cooke’s net pens located in the Orchard Rocks Conservation Area
We appreciate this support and dedication from the Bainbridge Island City Council and greater community to protect Puget Sound from harm by this industry. A special thank you to Commissioner Christy Carr for introducing this resolution.