Cooke Aquaculture Drops Appeal of Canceled Net Pen Leases

Image: Cooke Aquaculture.

Seafood company Cooke Aquaculture Pacific has dropped its appeal of the state’s cancelation of its net pen leases at Rich Passage and Hope Island, Washington state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced March 15.

Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, regarding the appeal’s dismissal, said that state residents should remember this day as “truly the end of dangerous and destructive net pens in the state.

“Cooke Aquaculture has finally realized that its fight to continue to put our waters and salmon at risk was futile. And as the courtroom battles and corporate tantrums fade away, we’re left with a Washington with cleaner waters, stronger habitats, and healthier salmon,” Franz said.

This was the final chapter in a saga that began Aug. 19, 2017, when 300,000 Atlantic salmon escaped after a faulty net pen at the Cooke Aquaculture facility near Cypress Island, Wash., collapsed. DNR terminated the lease as a result and fined Cooke $332,000.

Cooke also was found to be negligent by the Washington Department of Ecology.

DNR then terminated Cooke’s Port Angeles lease due to failure to maintain the facility in a safe condition. In 2018, the Washington Legislature went on to phase out Atlantic salmon farming.

In 2022, Franz signed a commissioner’s order prohibiting commercial finish net pen aquaculture on state-owned aquatic lands.

In May 2023, Cook was required to remove the last pen from Washington waters in Rich Passage. Early this year, DNR began an official rule-making to ban finfish net-pen aquaculture in Washington state.

Franz said that DNR’s measures are supported by the Suquamish Tribe, Lummi Nation, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and Samish Indian Nation, local wildlife groups, the communities impacted by these facilities and the public.