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Washington Senate Passes Bill to Phase Out Salmon Farming

  • Current efforts to ban salmon farming in Washington State began shortly after the August 2017 failure of a net pen structure owned by Canadian-based Cooke Aquaculture that resulted in the escape of more than 240,000 invasive Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound. On March 2, 2018, the Washington State Senate passed HR 2957 by a vote of 31 to 16. The bill prohibits the state from issuing or renewing any leases or permits authorizing the use of state-owned aquatic lands for the purpose of Atlantic salmon aquaculture. The House passed the bill on Feb. 14 by a vote of 67-31.

  • While Washington State Governor Jay Inslee is expected to sign HR 2975, the Washington Fish Growers Association (WFGA) has asked him to veto the bill, which the group calls “ill-conceived” and not based on the best available science. WFGA executive director Dan Swecker expressed appreciation for the support received from “many of the world’s leading fisheries scientists, expressing alarm over a legislative measure that is founded on the baseless fear that Atlantic salmon, when and if they escape, could interbreed with Pacific stocks or colonize our rivers.”

  • In a statement issued in response the Senate passage of HR 2957, Cooke Aquaculture said that it was deeply disappointed concerning the impact that the legislation could have on Washington’s 30-year salmon farming industry. The company added, “As an immediate next step, Cooke Aquaculture Pacific will take the time we need to fully evaluate our operations and investments in Washington and explore all our available options.” Although, the previous month, Cooke’s Vice President of Public Relations, Joel Richardson, told the Washington House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee that Cooke could make a claim for mandatory arbitration under NAFTA to compensate for its $70-plus million investment if the state banned salmon farming.

  • Current leases for Atlantic salmon farming in Washington State expire in 2022. Although, as previously reported on this blog, Washington’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has already terminated two of Cooke’s of leases and is currently reviewing the company’s remaining two leases. In other West Coast states, Oregon, California, and Alaska have effectively banned saltwater fish farms in their waters (see OPB article).

© 2019 Keller and Heckman LLP


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Keller and Heckman offers global food and drug services to its clients. Our comprehensive and extensive food and drug practice is one of the largest in the world. We promote, protect, and defend products made by the spectrum of industries regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Commission and Member States authorities in the European Union (EU) and similar authorities throughout the world. The products we help get to market include foods, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, veterinary products, dietary supplements, and cosmetics. In addition...