2 Republicans seek immediate ban on Atlantic net pens, too — and faster

Two Republican lawmakers have filed legislation to ban Atlantic salmon net pens, with emergency legislation to effect immediate shut down.

Two Republican state lawmakers have introduced legislation to immediately ban Atlantic salmon net pens in Puget Sound.

“This is an emergency,” said state Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, prime co-sponsor of the legislation, which would make Atlantic salmon net-pen farming illegal in Washington waters.

The bill is filed for consideration in the coming 60-day legislative session, which begins in January. The bill, if passed by the Legislature, would take effect immediately upon signature by the governor.

The ban seeks to cancel existing leases held by Cooke Aquaculture, the multibillion-dollar Canadian corporation that operates eight Atlantic net-pen farms in Puget Sound. Its leases with the state Department of Natural Resources expire at different times at its farms, with the latest timing out in 2025.

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The ban takes a more urgent approach than another bill planned by Democratic state Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island. His legislation would phase out the farms as the leases expire.

But after last August’s escape from Cooke’s Cypress Island farm — freeing more than 100,000 Atlantics into Washington waters — that is not quick enough, Walsh said.

“We thought a bright line that would clear the issue quickly is the best approach,” Walsh said. “I live on the coast and we have been struggling for years with our native salmon stocks, they are all run down, all the metrics are bad.

“It just galls me that we are running this industry sideline in our public waters, raising invasive species. It is just very infuriating. Weird in every way. Considering all the money our state is spending supporting native stocks, why in God’s green Earth would we be doing something completely alien to those recovery efforts?”

Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, a co-sponsor of the legislation, said in a prepared statement, “It simply doesn’t make sense to continue allowing Atlantic salmon farms to operate in Washington State.

“Enough is enough.”

Nell Halse, spokeswoman for Cooke Aquaculture, said in an email to The Seattle Times that the company is “committed to operating our facilities in a safe and responsible manner to help supply global demand for healthy protein and bring jobs, tax revenue and other economic benefits…

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