NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

Victory! State Senate passes bill to ban invasive fish net pens in Washington waters

The second month of the 2018 Legislative Session is underway in Washington State, and we continue to see productive floor action on both sides of the Dome, but especially on the Senate side, where bills have been flying out of the Senate Republicans’ graveyard of progress thanks to the new Democratic majority.

Today, the Senate passed a bill that will safeguard our waters and aquatic lands for future generations. Sponsored by Kevin Ranker, Second Substitute Senate Bill 6086 would do the following, as analyzed by nonpartisan legislative staff:

  • Prohibit the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from entering into a new, or renewing or extending an existing, aquatics land lease or use authorization that involves marine finfish aquaculture of Atlantic salmon.
  • Prohibit the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) and the Department of Ecology (ECY), under its water pollution control authority, from authorizing or permitting activities or operations involving marine finfish aquaculture of Atlantic salmon after the expiration date for the existing aquatic lands lease.
  • Create a reoccurring facility inspection process for operations involving marine finfish aquaculture of Atlantic salmon.

“In the months since the escape of hundreds of thousands of invasive Atlantic salmon from the net pen failure, we have learned the extent of the mismanagement and negligence of Cooke Aquaculture,” said Ranker (D-40th District: Orcas Island). “This sort of careless behavior is unacceptable for any company in Washington state. The state ban is a strong stance to ensure the protection of our marine environment and native salmon populations in the Salish Sea.”

More than two-thirds of the Senate voted in favor of 2SSB 6086. Here’s the roll call:

Roll Call
2SSB 6086
Nonnative finfish release
3rd Reading & Final Passage

Yeas: 35; Nays: 12; Excused: 2

Voting Yea: Senators Angel, Bailey, Baumgartner, Billig, Carlyle, Chase, Cleveland, Conway, Darneille, Dhingra, Ericksen, Fain, Fortunato, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hawkins, Hobbs, Hunt, Keiser, Kuderer, Liias, McCoy, Miloscia, Mullet, Nelson, O`Ban, Palumbo, Pedersen, Ranker, Rolfes, Saldaña, Sheldon, Van De Wege, Wellman, Zeiger

Voting Nay: Senators Becker, Braun, Brown, Honeyford, King, Padden, Rivers, Short, Takko, Wagoner, Warnick, Wilson

Excused: Senators Schoesler, Walsh

The vote did not break down along party lines. One Democrat voted against the bill (Dean Takko), while close to half of the Senate Republicans voted for it, including Jan Angel, Barbara Bailey, Michael Baumgartner, Doug Ericksen, Phil Fortunato, Brad Hawkins, Mark Miloscia, Steve O’Ban, Tim Sheldon, and Hans Zeiger.

Governor Jay Inslee has indicated he will sign the bill if the House approves it.

“It is no longer acceptable for the people of the state of Washington to expose our waters to the threats posed by non-native Atlantic salmon in net pens,” said the Governor at his Thursday media availability. “We need to transition and phase out the leases that now exist because this is a risk that is intolerable and unacceptable.”

Public Lands Commissioner Hillary Franz, who heads the Department of Natural Resources, has already responded boldly to the disastrous failure of Cooke Aquaculture’s Cypress Island fish farm last summer. DNR has terminated Cooke’s Cypress Island lease, as well as its lease at Port Angeles.

“Cooke has flagrantly violated the terms of its lease at Cypress Island,” Franz said in a statement published last week. “The company’s reckless disregard endangered the health of our waters and our people, and it will not be tolerated.

“On behalf of all Washingtonians, and in fulfillment of my duty to protect our state’s waters, I am terminating the lease.”

DNR says it is currently reviewing Cooke’s other Atlantic salmon facilities at Rich Passage and Hope Island. When that review process is complete, Commissioner Franz will assess DNR’s legal options.

NPI thanks Commissioner Franz and DNR for moving to shut down Cooke Aquaculture’s horribly managed Atlantic salmon fish farms.

It is abundantly clear that Cooke is an irresponsible company that has not only violated its lease agreements with the state, but threatened the health of our marine ecosystems. Cooke needs to be permanently banished from Washington’s waters, and the practice of farming nonnative fish disallowed.

Last autumn, NPI called for the kind of ban that passed the Washington State Senate today in a post authored by our Vice President-Secretary Diane Jones. We’re very, very pleased to see the Senate follow up by passing 2SSB 6086.

Now it’s time for the House of Representatives to follow suit.

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