State terminates Cooke Aquaculture lease after net pen failure

During an August 2017 incident, an estimated 250,000 non-native salmon were released in the Salish Sea.

Sunday Washington state’s Commissioner of Public Lands announced she terminated Cooke Aquaculture’s lease at the company’s Cypress Island net pen facility.

During the August incident, an estimated 250,000 non-native salmon were released in the Salish Sea.

Earlier this week, the state Department of Ecology fined Cooke Aquaculture $332,000. The state investigation found Cooke poorly cleaned and maintained the nets, failed to follow repair protocols, and paid insufficient attention to engineering.

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“We've found that violations of the lease were so significant,” said Public Lands Commissioner Hillary Franz in a Sunday interview. “(It) showed absolute reckless disregard by Cooke Aquaculture and maintain those facilities which caused the endangerment of our lands and our waters and our people.”

Franz added a second net pen was “also in such poor condition that it was ready for catastrophic failure as well."

Franz also called into question the future of the net pen industry in the state.

“I think this raises real big questions about what kind of activities should we be having in Washington state and what's in the state's best interests,” she said.

Joel Richardson, Cooke Inc. Vice President Public Relations, issued this statement to KING 5:

"Given that Cooke Aquaculture Pacific received the notice of termination on Saturday, we will reserve comment until we’ve had the proper time to review the letter and assess its impact on our operations and our employees’ livelihoods."