The Northwest Aquaculture Alliance (NWAA) on Thursday launched a campaign questioning the science used by Washington state Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz to ban all netpen finfish farming in Washington state-owned waters.
April 2017: Cooke submits applications to renew their permits for all eight of their net pen facilities.
August 2017: A net pen owned by Cooke Aquaculture near Cypress Island in Skagit County failed and released Atlantic salmon into the surrounding waters.
August 2017: Gov Inslee directs agencies to put a hold on any new permits until investigation was complete.
January 2018: Dept. of Natural Resources, Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, and Ecology release the Cypress Island Atlantic Salmon Net Pen Failure Investigation and Review document. Ecology fines Cooke $332,00 for the net pen collapse.
January 2020: Washington state approves Cooke's change of species to Steelhead for the protection of native fish and wildlife.
January 2021: Washington state gives given final approval to farm steelhead trout in Washington State.
Nov: 2022: DNR, headed by Hilary Franz, told Cooke it would not renew licenses for the company's remaining steelhead farms, ending the Canadian seafood giant's netpen farming operations in the state.
Last November, the state's Department of Natural Resources (DNR), headed by Franz, told Cooke it would not renew licenses for the company's remaining steelhead farms, seemingly ending the Canadian seafood giant's netpen farming operations in the state.
Soon after, Cooke filed a complaint in Washington State Superior Court to appeal the state's decision to deny renewal of the company's fish farming permits for its Hope Island and Rich Passage farms, and was granted extra time to remove its fish given the intense stress the decision was causing to the company and its workers.
“This unscientific ban on commercial netpens shows that Hilary Franz is playing politics with your dinner plate—at the expense of hard-working, dedicated people who have made the production of nutritious seafood their life-long career,” NWAA Executive Director Jeanne McKnight said.
“It’s outrageous that Franz ignored multiple peer-reviewed scientific studies proving the ecological safety of farming fish and completely disregarded a unanimous Supreme Court decision affirming the legality of farming native steelhead in our state waters."
In its new campaign, stophilaryfranz.com, Washington residents can send an auto-generated letter to their local representatives asking lawmakers to re-examine Franz's executive order.
The letter say Franz's "overreaching action ignored your legislative decision and usurped your role and authority to enact public policy in the best interest of our state."
It goes on to ask the lawmaker to "take action" and "take back" legislative authority and "restore and protect the highly valuable local fish-farming industry in Washington state."
"We are outraged that she completely ignored the multi-year comprehensive study, conducted right here in Puget Sound, that gave rise to the recent biological opinion from NOAA showing no significant adverse impacts on endangered species by fish farms operating in the state," McKnight said.
The group also pointed to a 2018 law passed by the state legislature that ended fish farming of non-native species in state waters, but legalized the farming of native species in the state.
"The Franz decision to ban fish farming in commercial netpens represents egregious government over-reach on the part of a politically ambitious agency head, and in its campaign, NWAA urges the legislature to take back its definitive authority to establish state policy around this critically important issue," McKnight said.
Franz faces re-election for her job in 2024. As part of her priorities listed on her website, she has conserving land and water as a major one.
Her campaign website states concerning developments with Cooke, "when Cooke Aquaculture negligently allowed hundreds of thousands of non-native salmon to escape into Puget Sound, Hilary terminated their lease."
Watch a video the campaign released here: