Groups sue over industrial ocean fish farm permit in Washington State

Lawsuit cites numerous harms from the industry that state officials overlooked

SEATTLE, Wash. – Environmental groups today filed suit to block a major offshore aquaculture plan that could have catastrophic impacts on the health of Puget Sound.

The lawsuit, filed by Friends of the Earth, Wild Fish Conservancy, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety, alleges that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife failed to adequately account for the dangers a permit issued to Cooke Aquaculture poses to federally protected species and the environment around the net pens. The permit would allow the company to raise domesticated steelhead in coastal net pens for five years.

“The state is legally obligated to protect the ecosystem and communities living and working near Puget Sound from irresponsible companies like Cooke Aquaculture,” said Hallie Templeton, Friends of the Earth’s senior oceans campaigner. “Despite its reckless release of non-native Atlantic Salmon, Cooke is hoping to take advantage of loopholes to bypass protections implemented by Washington’s legislature. State officials have unlawfully ignored the harms of floating factory farms and instead greenlighted more environmental havoc in Puget Sound.”

After approximately 250,000 Atlantic salmon escaped from Cooke’s Cypress Island facility in 2017, the state swiftly passed a law banning net pen farming of non-native finfish by 2022. Cooke then applied to the state to change the type of species it could raise in its floating factory farms. Despite significant public outcry, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife issued the permit to Cooke Aquaculture in January 2020, citing an environmental analysis from 1990.

Washington is the only Pacific Coast state to allow coastal net pen fish farming.

Friends of the Earth, Wild Fish Conservancy, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety are represented by Kampmeier & Knutsen, PLLC in this matter.

Expert contact: Hallie Templeton, (434) 326-4647, htempleton@foe.org
Communications contact: Patrick Davis, (202) 222-0744, pdavis@foe.org

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