Featured image: Ramon Dompor/The Seattle Times

Once again, fish farmers are working to re-establish pen-raised fish farming in the Puget Sound. Cooke Aquaculture, one of the companies known for accidentally releasing Atlantic salmon into the Sound a few years ago. But now, your voice is needed to once again protect the wild fish of the Puget Sound!

From The Wild Steelhead Coalition:

Time is running out to block a dangerous proposal from Cooke Aquaculture to farm ‘steelhead’ in Puget Sound. Take action TODAY calling for a full environmental review!

In 2018 when Governor Jay Inslee signed HB 2957 into law, the bill banning non-native finfish farming in Washington’s waters after 2022, we thought Cooke Aquaculture’s net pens in Puget Sound would soon be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, that may no longer be the case as Cooke Aquaculture is working quickly and quietly to transform their Atlantic salmon net pens into “steelhead” net pens, with little pushback from state regulators. This shocking development is not only an affront to transparent government, but more importantly, it is an environmental disaster in the making.

On October 1st, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) advanced a proposal to allow farmed steelhead to be planted in Cooke’s existing Puget Sound net pens, determining that environmental impacts were likely to be non-significant. For public review, all that was provided was a short comment period.

We cannot allow this fish farm bait and switch to become a reality, so it is critical we speak up today and send a loud and clear message to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife that the state needs to conduct a more thorough environmental review process. This review is especially needed since the state’s current analysis relies on a decades-old EIS with limited supplemental information, which is absurd and totally insufficient for an inherently high-risk project operated by a company with an abysmal safety record.

Steelhead net pens could have major repercussions on Washington’s wild steelhead populations. Not only would these net pens be a massive source of pollution and have the potential to spread deadly diseases and viruses to wild fish, but escaped farmed fish could interbreed with wild steelhead stocks and dilute the genetic pool. While the project calls for the use of triploid (sterile) steelhead, this sterilization is not 100 percent successful, making the risk of interbreeding very likely in the event of a catastrophic spill.

Please take a minute to tell the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct a full environmental review of this perilous proposal. Our iconic state fish are far too important to Washington’s people, economy, and ecosystem to risk them by dangerously rushing through this important environmental review process.

To make your voice heard, sign The Wild Steelhead Coalition has set up a simple form letter you can use to make your voice heard, here!

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