One of several photos taken by the Department of Natural Resources showing Cooke Aquaculture's ruined fish farm near Cypress Island. Click the image to see the whole photo collection in high resolution. (Reproduced under a Creative Commons license.)

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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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