Olympia, WA – Yesterday, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) began a 21-day public comment period regarding Cooke Aquaculture’s proposal to farm sterile (triploid) rainbow trout/steelhead in Puget Sound.
The Department posted a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) mitigated determination of non-significance that analyzes the environmental impacts of Cooke’s proposal to transition from farming Atlantic salmon to farming steelhead in several of the company’s existing facilities. These facilities include four net pens located near Rich Passage and Skagit Bay, but in the future may cover three more Puget Sound net pens currently owned by Cooke.
“Given the escape of Atlantic salmon in 2017, we know that there is a heightened sense of concern around the impacts of fish aquaculture in Puget Sound,” said WDFW Fish Program Director Kelly Cunningham. “We want to hear from the public about Cooke Aquaculture’s proposal and our proposed permit requirements.”
In addition to agreeing to farm only sterile fish, Cooke will also need to prescreen any fish destined for net pens in Washington waters to ensure that they are free of disease.
Cooke submitted a five-year Marine Aquaculture Permit application to WDFW in January 2019, and a SEPA Environmental Checklist with supporting documents in July 2019.
WDFW continues to work with its natural resource agency partners to provide oversight and ensure compliance with the terms of aquaculture permits and leases in Puget Sound. Cooke’s proposal would also be subject to additional regulatory review by WDFW’s sister state agencies before the proposed transition could take place.
The public is asked to submit comments by Oct. 22, 2019. The determination, including ways to comment, and supporting documents can be found at: https://wdfw.wa.gov/licenses/environmental/sepa/open-comments.