In this Tuesday, 22 August 2017 photo, Riley Starks of Lummi Island Wild shows three of the farm raised Atlantic salmon that were caught alongside four healthy Kings in Point Williams, Washington. A marine net pen holding 305,000 farmed Atlantic salmon collapsed recently, releasing thousands of fish into Puget Sound and renewing concerns that a new proposed salmon farm could harm wild salmon stock and cause other environmental damage. Photo: Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times

By Phuong Le
28 August 2017

SEATTLE (Associated Press) – A marine net pen holding 305,000 farmed Atlantic salmon collapsed recently, releasing thousands of fish into Puget Sound and renewing concerns that a new proposed salmon farm could harm wild salmon stock and cause other environmental damage.

The release at Cooke Aquaculture's facility comes as the company is proposing new expanded commercial facility in the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Washington state.

Canada-based Cooke, which operates five salmon farms in Washington that it acquired last year, would build 14 floating circular net pens about 1 ½ miles (1.61 kilometers) offshore. It would move current operations from Port Angeles Harbor and increase production by 20 percent. The project is in the permitting phase.

Critics say the recent fish escape highlights potential risks of open-sea fish farming. They worry about water pollution from fish feed and the potential for farmed fish to spread of diseases and parasites to wild fish.

"These are open net pens. They're not isolated from surrounding environment," said Chris Wilke, executive director of the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, which opposes the project. […]

"They're trying to imply that this was some unnatural natural event. This was absolute negligence on their part," said Kurt Beardslee, executive director of the Wild Conservancy. Fish farms "are polluting every single day a massive amount of phosphorous and nitrogen into the waters that we're trying to clean up." […]

The Lummi Nation has been so concerned about the fish escapes that tribal anglers have been trying to catch the Atlantic salmon before they enter local rivers. The tribe declared a state of emergency Thursday, saying the fish spill needs to be addressed immediately. Tribal officials are worried that farmed salmon will eat native fish or disturb its spawning grounds. [more]

Collapse at salmon farm renews debate about fish farming

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