Just off the Swinomish Preserve and north of Hope Island in Skagit Bay, a net pen owned by Cooke Aquaculture is expected to contain 365,000 sterile native rainbow trout.
For Swinomish President Steve Edwards this pen is a threat.
“As a long-time tribal fisherman, I know that nothing is more important to the Swinomish tribal community than the cultural and natural resources that we have managed and have been fortunate enough to discover since time immemorial,” said Edwards said in a press release. “The Hope Island mesh enclosure interferes with our way of life, and it needs to be removed, not revived. “
Although the state Department of Fisheries and Wildlife allows the company to stockpile the enclosure, the state Supreme Court will assess the legality of the permit in two months after an appeal from environmental groups. Cooke Aquaculture’s ground lease with the state’s Department of Natural Resources expires in 2022, and the agency has yet to determine whether to renew the lease.
Edwards said in the statement that “it is extremely troubling” that the company is able to stockpile the pens before the Supreme Court and Natural Resources have made decisions on the permit and lease.
Cooke Aquaculture spokesperson Joel Richardson said in an email their operations had undergone a year of potential risk analysis with input from scientists, tribes and the public, and operations would be safe.
“The Hope Island farm has been inspected and analyzed by a third-party engineer who has certified it to be safe. Cooke has worked closely with (Natural Resources) to ensure he has confidence in his operations, ”said Richardson. “The agencies have reviewed the technical certification and have no concerns about the condition of the installation.”
In 2017, approximately 240,000 non-native Atlantic salmon reached Puget Sound after a Cooke aquaculture enclosure collapsed near Cypress Island. The state legislature has passed a law that will phase out the breeding of non-native fish by 2022.