In 2018 when the Washington State Legislature passed HB 2857, the law banning non-native fish farms in state waters by 2022, we thought net pens would soon be a thing of the past in Washington. However, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) recent permitting of Cooke Aquaculture’s proposed steelhead fish farms is a stark sign that we may be dealing with destructive net pens well past 2022. That is why it is critical that Washingtonians take action today and tell the State Legislature to pass SB 6613, which would enhance the ability of state agencies to effectively monitor and regulate net pen operations.
Every day net pens operate in Washington’s waters, these factory farms cause immeasurable harm to our waters and wild fish through pollution and the spread of disease. However, in order to ensure these facilities are operating as “safely” as possible, state agencies like WDFW and the Washington Department of Ecology need to regularly monitor and oversee operations of these net pens.
Unfortunately, these departments often lack the resources and staff to conduct proper oversight of these inherently destructive facilities. SB 6613 seeks to rectify this significant problem by requiring Ecology and WDFW to create rules for recovering the costs of their inspections, monitoring, and compliance testing at marine aquaculture sites. These rules would shift the financial burden of oversight from the taxpayer onto the aquaculture industry, which is profiting from the pollution of our waters and the further decline of our wild fish stocks.
Considering Cooke Aquaculture’s egregious safety record, we need to be conducting rigorous oversight of their net pens every second they are operating in Washington’s waters. SB 6613 will help make that possible by requiring that the polluter pays for the state’s efforts to monitor this dirty industry, so please take two minutes and tell the Washington legislature to make this critical legislation the law of the land before a key committee vote this Friday, February 28.
Thank you for fighting for our wild steelhead.