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Cooke to pay $332,000 fine for Washington salmon pen collapse

Cooke initially appealed the penalty, but has now agreed to pay.

Cooke Aquaculture will pay the full $332,000 (€295,929) penalty to the Washington Department of Ecology for the collapse of its floating pen near Cypress Island that released 250,000 non-native fish into Puget Sound in 2017, reports San Juan Islander.

Initially, Cooke Aquaculture appealed the penalty to the Pollution Control Hearings Board, but in a legal settlement with Ecology it agreed to pay the full penalty.

The collapse in August 2017 led to a multi-agency investigation, and ultimately to the state Legislature passing a bill to phase out non-native fish farming by 2022.

As a result of the investigation, Ecology fined Cooke for water quality permit violations that include: poor net cleaning and maintenance; failing to follow required protocol for repairs; and insufficient attention to structural engineering.

Ecology also is updating and strengthening the water quality permits for Cooke’s four remaining floating fish pens near Hope Island and in Rich Passage near Bainbridge Island. Additional protective measures to be included in the permits include:

The settlement stipulates that $265,600 (€236,599) of the penalty will go to an environmental project related to regional salmon enhancements or habitat restoration.

The remaining $66,400 (€59,000) will be paid into Ecology’s Coastal Protection Fund that supports grants to public entities for environmental protection and restoration statewide.

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