It’s open season on Atlantic Salmon in the State of Washington. Escaped Aquaculture Salmon a Big Concern
A fish farm’s net pen failed Saturday afternoon (August 19th) when an anchor pulled loose and metal walkways twisted. Onlookers said it looked like hurricane debris.
Commercial fishing boats and sports fishers were sent a “Mayday” – catch as many Atlantic salmon as you can… net pen broke near Washington’s Cypress Island. Anglers reported thousands of the non-native fish jumping in the water or washing ashore.
Members of the Lummi Nation, out fishing for chinook, or king salmon, a Pacific variety native to Washington, instead began pulling up Atlantic salmon, lots of them. More were caught the following Monday.
The pen, in the state’s northwestern San Juan Islands, contained about 305,000 Atlantic salmon. The owner is Cooke Aquaculture (Canada) – a fish farm near Cypress Island, Washington. The Department of Fish and Wildlife are trying to determine how many escaped.
Ron Warren, assistant director of the fish program for Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, said they believe about 4,000 to 5,000 of the 305,000 fish in the Cooke Aquaculture net pen escaped.
“What we have for records is a treatment from July 2016 and that the fish have all been healthy since that time,” Warren said. “Fortunately, from a health standard perspective, the fish are of a size that is okay to eat. Unfortunately, they’re now swimming free in state waters and maybe in B.C. waters as well.”
NOTE: The Seattle Times – “Between 1951 and 1991, state fishery officials tried to introduce [Atlantic salmon] in the region by releasing — on 27 occasions — young smolts into Puget Sound. Those efforts were unsuccessful.”
Sources Various: Saanich News, NPR, The Seattle Times, Google Maps, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region, and others.