The legislation follows an incident in August when a Cooke Aquaculture pen containing 305,000 Atlantic salmon collapsed, releasing an undetermined amount of fish into Puget Sound.
According to a release from Walsh, this was the fourth such incident since 1996.
After the incident, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife approved a permit for Cooke Aquaculture to handle one million more Atlantic salmon at a different facility in Puget Sound.
Rep. Drew MacEwen says enough is enough.
“It simply doesn’t make sense to continue allowing Atlantic salmon farms to operate in Washington state,” said MacEwen, R-Union. “Escaped Atlantic salmon pose serious risks to native Pacific salmon with regard to competition for resources, and also threaten the survival of Pacific juveniles. It’s time we close these farms and put strong policies in place that enable our Pacific salmon populations to thrive.”
Rep. Walsh, who has called for an end to Atlantic salmon farms, is the prime co-sponsor of the bill.
“We need to boost the stocks of our native salmon by building on our own resources rather than continuing to cultivate an invasive species,” said Walsh, R-Aberdeen. “As we’ve seen, farming Atlantic salmon in Washington waters is, at best, a nuisance and, at worst, a catastrophe.”
Also supporting the legislation is Squaxin Island Tribal Chairman Arnold Cooper. The Squaxin Island Tribe operates a net pen complex in South Puget Sound in cooperation with WDFW, releasing 700,000 Coho each year and providing vital fisheries for tribal and sports fishermen.
“We support banning Atlantic salmon aquaculture from our waters,” said Chairman Arnold Cooper. “Continuing to allow Atlantic salmon aquaculture means future spills are inevitable. Future spills mean Atlantic salmon will compete with native fish for wild food, and they also mean we risk Atlantic salmon colonizing. Our tribe has always depended on natural resources, so there is no acceptable margin of error for us in protecting our way of life and our economy. While we know raising native salmon temporarily in net pens is an effective way to provide fisheries, non-native species like Atlantic salmon have no place in the Pacific Northwest.”
The 2018 legislative session begins Jan. 8.