October 17, 2019

Cooke Aquaculture to fund wild salmon restoration in Maine, US, following violations at pens


Cooke Aquaculture will pay more than US$156,213 for the restoration of wild salmon at the Machias River in Maine, the  United States, The Bangor Daily News reported. 

The payment is part of a consent agreement with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection following several violations at the Canadian aquaculture firm's fish pen sites in Hancock and Washington counties, Maine. It will fund the Marine Rearing Atlantic Salmon Machias River Project, which aims to breed and restore native populations of Atlantic salmon in the 96.6km river.

In addition, Cooke will submit to state net-pen plans and staff training plans on proper sample collection, handling, preservation, analysis and documentation, the company's spokesman said.

Cooke's violation include having too many fish at one or more sites, failure to conduct environmental sampling, and failure to adhere to clerical procedures that entail timely filing of accurate pollution sampling reports and timely submissions of fish spill prevention plans. As a result, these offenses broke terms of Cooke's operating permit and state law.

As part of the agreement, beginning in 2021, Cooke and the Maine Department of Marine Resources will raise approximately 900 native salmon that will later be released in the Machias River.

Cooke will also partner with DMR and other entities to construct, operate, monitor and maintain the net pens where the Atlantic salmon will be raised to adult stage, prior to their release into the river.

According to Cooke spokesman Joel Richardson, net pens can be utilised for conservation goals - an activity which is "a relatively new science-based idea that is showing promise in the Bay of Fundy through the Fundy Salmon Recovery partnership."

Richardson added: "The disappearance of [wild] Atlantic salmon poses a real environmental issue and threatens the culture, history, and economy of Maine and Indian tribal communities."

The consent agreement is not connected to the recent allegations of animal cruelty at one of Cooke's fish hatchery in Bingham.

- The Bangor Daily News