British Columbia

Washington state senate passes bill to phase out Atlantic salmon farming

The association representing B.C. salmon farmers responded today, stressing the importance of the industry to the province.

B.C. fish farmers say they use better equipment than company responsible for mass Atlantic salmon escape

Drone footage shows the mangled remains of a net pen near Cypress Island in Washington state that collapsed last summer, releasing an estimated 250,000 Atlantic salmon into Pacific waters. (Beau Garreau)

A bill that would phase out the farming of Atlantic salmon in Washington state waters passed in the state senate Thursday.

It comes months after nets at a Washington fish farm collapsed in the summer of 2017, allowing thousands of Atlantic salmon to escape into Puget Sound and B.C. waters.

The bill, which is backed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, will become law if it passes in the state house of representatives where it has been introduced for further consideration.

It would end Atlantic salmon farming in net pens on the Washington coast by 2025 as existing leases expire.

B.C. industry responds

The B.C. Salmon Farmers Association responded to the news Friday, stressing the importance of the salmon farming industry to B.C.

"It's an industry that so many people, especially on Vancouver Island, depend on," said Jeremy Dunn, director of the association.

"We would encourage Washington, as we encourage our governments here ... to make science-based decisions when making decisions around aquaculture."

Aerial image of a salmon farm near Tofino, B.C. Salmon farms in B.C. use newer technology to withstand strong currents and tides than the farm that collapsed in Washington state, according to the industry. (Courtesy of B.C. Salmon Farmers Association)

Dunn also said that farms in B.C. have improved technology and monitoring, making escapes rare.

"Escapes in the early days of salmon farming in B.C. were quite common," he said.

"But over the last ten years, there have been significant investments in farming infrastructure, in mooring technology."

Earlier this week, Washington state officials fined Cooke Aquaculture Pacific, owner of the net pen that collapsed last summer, $332,000 for releasing the invasive salmon species into Puget Sound.

With files from the Associated Press