On February 16, 2022, NOAA Fisheries released a biological opinion analyzing impacts of commercial marine net pen aquaculture in Puget Sound to species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The biological opinion found open water net pens in Puget Sound are adversely affecting ESA-listed salmon, steelhead, and other protected fish species and their habitats, and that take of ESA-listed species was reasonably and likely to occur from a variety of mechanisms including but not limited to:

  • reducing foraging production from juvenile and adult salmonids and other protected fish
  • harm that occurs to salmonids and other protected fish due to degraded water quality from bio-deposits, contaminants and turbidity
  • predation of juvenile salmonids and other fish by farmed fish
  • predation and competition of juvenile salmonids and other protected fish in both marine and freshwater ecosystems resulting from small and large escape events
  • reduced reproductive success for adult Chinook and steelhead when farmed fish escape
  • reduced fitness and survival of juvenile and adult steelhead from interbreeding with domesticated escaped fish during small and large escape events
  • reduced fitness and survival from the transmission of pathogens to juvenile and adult salmonids from farmed fish
  • Bycatch of juvenile salmonids and protected fish during harvest of farmed fish


Wild Fish Conservancy has been arguing through the Courts beginning in 2005 that NOAA Fisheries and the Environmental Protection Agency were required to reinitiate consultation under the Endangered Species Act and conduct a comprehensive biological opinion due to various catastrophic escape and pathogen outbreak events and the growing scientific record of harm. Finally, in 2018, following a massive collapse of a net pen in Puget Sound that released 260,000+ nonnative Atlantic salmon infected with an exotic virus, WFC was successful in this legal pursuit and NOAA and the EPA agreed to prepare the biological opinion. Until this point, the agency’s opinion was that net pen aquaculture was not likely to adversely affect any ESA-listed species in Puget Sound.

File Attachment