The Washington state Senate voted 31-16 on legislation Friday evening to pass a bill that will phase out Atlantic salmon farms in the state, which are all held by Cooke Aquaculture.
The bill will not approve new Atlantic salmon farming licenses nor renew current leases going forward. The last of Cooke's leases expires in 2025.
The bill now heads to Governor Jay Inslee's desk for his likely signature. Inslee spoke in support to the ban earlier this year when the bill was proposed.
Cooke worked hard into the evening Friday night to keep its Atlantic salmon net-pen industry alive in Washington, but despite more than two dozen amendments designed to alter the bill, the measure passed overwhelmingly.
“We are deeply disappointed in the action taken by the Legislature today and the potential impact it could have on Washington’s 30-year salmon-farming industry and the more than 600 rural workers and their families that rely upon salmon farming for their livelihoods," said Joel Richardson, vice president of public relations for Cooke, adding employees remain a top priority.
“As an immediate next step, Cooke Aquaculture Pacific will take the time we need to fully evaluate our operations and investments in Washington and explore all our available options, ensuring that any decision we ultimately make places our employees and their families first.
“Cooke came to Washington as a global industry leader with the goal of being a valued and responsible partner here," he said. "We had planned to add significant capital investments on top of the $75-plus million [€60.8 million] contribution we made to Washington’s economy when we acquired the state’s existing net-pen facilities in 2016.
"We had also planned for additional investments in continued scientific monitoring of Puget Sound’s waterways, and in state and tribal efforts to protect and recover wild salmon runs."
He added Cooke will work to rebuild public confidence and demonstrate the value of aquaculture while remaining committed to supporting Washington’s community, economy and marine ecology.