California, Oregon and Alaska have all banned Atlantic salmon net pens to protect the health of their salmon and waters. Meanwhile, Washington is on the path to becoming a global epicenter of Atlantic salmon net pen production, an industry with an extensive history of negative environmental, social and economic impacts.
Puget Sound is the lifeblood of our region. It is where we take our children to play and teach them about the wonders of nature. It is where businesses and families continue Washington’s rich historyof nourishing ourselves with Puget Sound’s salmon, shellfish, forage fish, rockfish, crabs, shrimp and prawns. The Sound is also home for our iconic animals such as orcas, porpoises, otters, and all five species of Pacific salmon.
Despite our collective reverence for Puget Sound and its salmon, the state of Washington is putting the future of our Sound and our salmon into the hands of Cooke Aquaculture, an international corporation trying to make Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca an epicenter of Atlantic salmon net pen production. This situation should concern everyone in the Puget Sound Region because everywhere Atlantic salmon net pens operate – from Norway to British Columbia to Chile – wild fish populations and marine ecosystems suffer.
This extensive record of destruction led California, Oregon and Alaska to ban Atlantic salmon netpens to protect the health of their waters and wild fish. Not only is Washington the only West Coast state that still permits the Atlantic salmon net pen industry to operate in its water, but Washington has allowed this industry to operate in Puget Sound for decades under a regulatory regime that does not comply with many international standards, especially those that protect wild fish.
“Years ago California, Oregon and Alaska all made the science-based decision to ban Atlantic salmon net pens to protect their wild salmon,” said Kurt Beardslee, executive director of Wild Fish Conservancy. “It is time for Washington – in fact it is long overdue – to join every other West Coast state and stop this toxic industry from undermining the recovery of Puget Sound and our wild salmon.”
For years, many of the organizations and businesses supporting the Our Sound, Our Salmon Campaign have been advocating for more responsible net pen management in Washington and British Columbia. After years of working largely independently, the Our Sound, Our Salmon coalition decided to join forces and forge a powerful grassroots coalition to convince the state of Washington to stop Cooke Aquaculture’s expansion plans before it is too late.
Time is of the essence. In the coming months the state will be deciding on the first part of Cooke Aquaculture’s plan, a proposal to build a large, open-ocean net pen in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Until now, all of Washington’s eight net pen facilities have been smaller in size and located in protected waters close to shore. The environmental impacts of these smaller net pens have been significant, but the potential impacts are orders of magnitude larger with this unprecedented and unproven proposal, which is located right in the heart of Western Washington’s most important salmon and steelhead migration habitat.
“In British Columbia, we have watched our native salmon stocks dwindle away while government and industry claim that Atlantic salmon net pens are not contributing to the decline. It would be sheer madness to allow the expansion of Atlantic salmon net pens in Washington considering the growing body of scientific evidence that continues to reveal the true impacts of this industry,” said Karen Wristen of Living Oceans Society.
Simply put, Atlantic salmon net pens are a bad deal for Washingtonians. The economic, social and environmental costs of letting this destructive industry operate in Washington far outweigh the benefits.
While the industry will make millions in profits, Washington residents, our Sound, and our salmon will get stuck with the bill and decades of environmental harm. Additionally, very little of the Atlantic salmon produced in Puget Sound is consumed locally because through our purchasing power, Washingtonians have made it clear that we far prefer the state’s wild Pacific salmon over the state’s farmed Atlantic salmon.
“Salmon net pens in Puget Sound pose a critical threat to wild salmon and local ecosystems,” saidEli Penberthy of PCC Natural Markets. “PCC and our costumers are committed to supporting responsible fisheries, which is why we do not sell Atlantic salmon raised in net pens and why we are proud to support this campaign’s efforts to stop the expansion of this irresponsible industry in Washington’s waters.”
The future of Puget Sound is already precarious, and its future is getting even more uncertain due to the current political climate in our nation’s capital. Federal funding for Puget Sound restoration is onthe chopping block and environmental protections for clean water and endangered salmon are at risk of being eliminated.
Given the potential loss of these critical restorations funds and protections, the last thing we need is to allow a destructive, loosely regulated industry to further threaten our Sound and our salmon.
It’s time for us to stand up for our Sound. It’s time for us to stand up for our salmon. And it’s time we stand up for our future by following the lead of every other West Coast state and stopping the expansion of destructive Atlantic salmon net pens in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
For more information:
Visit the Our Sound, Our Salmon website – www.oursound-oursalmon.org
The Our Sound, Our Salmon Campaign is proudly supported by the following businesses and organizations.
Bainbridge Island Watershed Council
Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat
Coast Action Group
Coastal Watershed Institute
Emerald Water Anglers
Friends of Miller Peninsula State Park
Idaho Rivers United
Last Frontier Strategies
Living Oceans Society
Lummi Island Wild
Mangrove Action Project
Native Fish Society
Olympic Environmental Council
Orca Relief Citizens Advisory
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations
Pacific Whale Watch Association
PCC Natural Markets
Protect Peninsula’s Future
Puget Sound Harvesters Association
Rainforest Conservation Foundation
RE Sources for Sustainable Communities
Save Our Seals
Smith & Lowney, PLLC
The Conservation Angler
The Flyfish Journal
Whidbey Environmental Action Network
Wild Fish Conservancy
Wild Steelhead Coalition