The cypress island net pen disaster
What you need to know...
Over the weekend of August 19th, a large escapement of Atlantic salmon occurred in the Deepwater Bay off of Cypress Island. The escape of non-native Atlantic salmon poses a massive threat to native wild fish in the Northwest, and to the ecosystem at large.
Here are the facts of the event so far.
Back on July 27th, one of three fish farms at Deepwater Bay broke free from its anchor and needed emergency teams to fix the damage. There were no escapes but the cause of the damage was due to high current and tidal movement, as reported by the industry.
Now, less than a month later, Cooke Aquaculture is claiming that tides and currents are the cause of more damage to a net pen at the same location. An alarming 305,000 Atlantic salmon have escaped from one of the pens, an escapement that threatens the integrity of the Puget Sound ecosystem.
In the media, larger than normal tides due to the solar eclipse have taken the blame for damages to the net pen. However, the data does not support this claim. NOAA’s tide predictions for the Bellingham Channel indicate that, over the course of this and prior years, tidal fluctuations have met and far exceeded the tide levels experienced on August 19th , 20th , and 21st .
Washington State sites net pen operations in areas of high tidal movement to manage the impacts of waste on benthic sediments. Net pen facilities are expected to withstand high tidal movement for this reason. In their own Fish Escape Plan, Cooke Aquaculture assures the State that the Cypress Island pens are able to withstand strong currents, a claim which has proven false.
This is not an isolated event. In the past, the Atlantic salmon aquaculture industry has displayed an inability to contain the Atlantic salmon they raise. In 1996, ’97, and ’99, catastrophic events resulted in the escape of 591,000 Atlantic salmon according to WDFW.
After a review of the data, it is clear that the claim of an abnormal tidal event associated with the solar eclipse is a myth. The eclipse cannot be attributed as the cause of Atlantic salmon escapement from the Cypress Island site. We hold Cooke Aquaculture responsible for this disaster, and would support an independent investigation into the matter. We are shocked and disheartened by this failure to protect our marine environment, and are deeply concerned about the negative consequences this event may impart on wild fish and marine mammals of the Northwest.
We invite you to join our Flotilla protesting net pens such as this one. Join mariners, commercial fishermen, chefs, sportsmen, and activists off of the southern coast of Bainbridge Island in saying no to the expansion of Atlantic salmon net pens.
Our petition to Governor Inslee already has 1000's of signatures. Click on the take action button to add your name to the list.