January 15, 2021
Cooke Aquaculture receives approval to farm steelhead in Washington, US
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in the United States, through the state of Washington's Department of Ecology, has issued a permit for Cooke Aquaculture to farm steelhead, also known as rainbow trout, in net-pens near Bainbridge Island and La Conner.
The approved permit meant Cooke Aquaculture can now farm sterile, all-female steelhead in marine net-pens at four sites in Puget Sound.
"Cooke Aquaculture Pacific has been working with tribal and community partners to chart a course in Washington to farm native trout based on sound science which the state has now affirmed with these permit approvals," Cooke vice president of public relations Joel Richardson said in an emailed statement to SeafoodSource.
"We welcome the multi-agency approvals to farm trout in Puget Sound. These sites will be operated in a manner that allows us to take the best care of the marine environment and provide a fresh supply of locally grown seafood. This favourable science-based decision follows on the November ruling by the King County Superior Court to uphold a permit granted to Cooke Aquaculture Pacific by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for the farming of sterile all-female Pacific steelhead trout in Puget Sound."
The Department of Ecology issued the permit after reviewing public comment and revisions made for draft permits released in September 2020.
"We acknowledge there is still scepticism regarding saltwater fish pen operations since the 2017 collapse of a net pen containing Atlantic salmon near Cypress Island in Skagit County. We firmly believe that confidence will be restored," Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe chair and CEO W. Ron Allen wrote in his comment. "The NPDES permit materials modified by ECY demonstrate clear environmental protection practices and increased monitoring, inspections, and reporting, as well as clear preparedness for accidents."
The modifications on the approved permits, made by the Department of Ecology, included additional requirements on net-pen maintenance, reporting for fish feed consumption, notification of state agencies in case of unusual events that could potentially lead to fish escape, and uptake of new technologies that reduce or prevent discharge of uneaten feed and fish waste.
Cooke's Pacific general manager, Jim Parsons, said that Cooke Aquaculture has spent millions of dollars to upgrade all of the equipment at its Washington farms since the company purchased the sites from Icicle Seafoods in 2016.