State approves Cooke Aquaculture plan to farm native fish in Puget Sound

Kitsap Sun –

State wildlife regulators have approved a plan by Cooke Aquaculture to raise native fish in the company’s net pens in Puget Sound, including in pens off Bainbridge Island.

The state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife announced last week that it has approved a five-year permit for Cooke’s proposal to raise all-female, sterile rainbow trout/steelhead at its existing net pens in Rich Passage and in Skagit Bay. The agency noted that the approval “may later extend to three other net pens owned by Cooke.”

“We heard from a huge number of stakeholders on this issue, and we appreciate everyone who took time to make their voice heard as part of this process,” WDFW Deputy Director Amy Windrope said in a statement. “This permit was approved based on scientific review and is contingent on Cooke complying with strict provisions designed to minimize any risk to native fish species.”

During the agency’s public comment period for the permit, it received more than 3,500 comments, it said.

The company has been angling to shift its operations away from farming nonnative Atlantic salmon over the last year after a state ban on those operations went into place in 2018. That move was prompted by the collapse of one of the company’s net pen operations, at Cypress Island.

Read more