A drone image of the collapsed Cooke Aquaculture salmon farm near Cypress Island in Washington state's Puget Sound. Photo: Beau Garreau / CBC News

By Lynda V. Mapes
2 March 2018

(The Seattle Times) – Atlantic salmon net-pen farming will be phased out in Washington by 2025 under legislation passed by the state Senate on Friday after a tough floor fight and fancy parliamentary footwork.

With at least six lobbyists in a last-minute campaign, Cooke Aquaculture Pacific worked hard until the last vote Friday to keep its Atlantic salmon net-pen industry alive in Washington.

But in the end the bill, which was buried under a blizzard of amendments, each one defeated, passed on a vote of 31-16.

Lawmakers steamrollered through amendments by opponents of the bill to avoid sending it back for further review in the House.

With the 5 p.m. cutoff for passage of bills from the opposite chamber looming, senators had filed some 30 amendments. Using a parliamentary move, backers of the measure were able to continue debate past the cutoff to pass the bill at 6:30 p.m.

But opponents continued debate on most of the amendments anyway, from requiring all-female fish at Atlantic net-pen farms, to giving operators a state tax break and lease-fee reduction to pay for converting to farming only native fish. […]

Cooke has poured money into a lobbying campaign against the bill, signing up at least six lobbyists retained at a total of $72,000, according to registration forms Cooke filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission.

The most recent registration was added this week, signing on three more lobbyists. They include Steve Gano, one of the most experienced and powerful in Olympia, on 26 February 2018 for a $30,000 flat fee to work through the legislative session and on any executive action by Gov. Jay Inslee. The governor has said he would sign a net-pen phaseout bill. […]

Cooke initially told the public and its regulators the incident was just a small release of fish, and primarily a business loss for the company, caused by unusually high tides coincident with the solar eclipse the same week. Three state agencies in a four-month investigation found the escape actually was due solely to Cooke’s negligence, and that the company had misled the public about the size and cause of the escape.

Cooke’s Washington operations are already facing reduction by administrative action. Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz has terminated two of the company’s leases, at Port Angeles and Cypress Island because of violations by Cooke. The company is fighting the Port Angeles termination in court.

While always controversial, the question of whether to retain Atlantic salmon farming in Washington has taken on a new urgency as Puget Sound and its federally listed species — including native Pacific salmon — struggle for survival. Many fear the state’s identity as a place of wild salmon is slipping away.

“I thought it would be difficult, a pretty heavy lift,” Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas, said of the bill. “It is never easy to take on a global corporation like this.” He said the bill was a chief focus for him coming into the legislative session.

“We have done the right thing,” Ranker said. “We have supported our culture and our natural resources.” [more]

State kills Atlantic salmon farming in Washington



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