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Washington state passes law to phase out atlantic salmon net pens



Kayakers protest Atlantic salmon net pens near the Bainbridge Island facility during the Our Sound, Our Salmon Flotilla event. Photo: John Gussman

Governor Inslee has signed an Atlantic salmon net pen phase out bill into law. 

Governor Jay Inslee signs HB 2957 into law. Our Sound, Our Salmon is well spoken for behind him, with representatives from coalition members standing by in support.

On March 22nd, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed HB2957 into law, an act that will effectively ban the practice of open-water Atlantic salmon aquaculture in the state of Washington. The Governor’s signature comes on the heels of bi-partisan support in the state legislature, passing the House by a vote of 67-31 and the Senate by a vote of 31-16. 

The Our Sound, Our Salmon coalition sincerely thanks Governor Inslee and the Washington State Legislature for their bold and prudent efforts to protect Washington’s public waters from the threat posed by Atlantic salmon net pens, an industry that has been allowed to recklessly endanger the ecological health of Puget Sound for far too long. 

Our Sound, Our Salmon also gives special thanks to the 12,000+ individuals and 109 businesses and organization who signed the campaign’s letter of petition to Governor Inslee, to the persistent and dedicated efforts of many tribal nations, and to the thousands of Washington state citizens who contacted their representatives and expressed support for legislation phasing out Atlantic salmon net pens from public waters. 

As a coalition, we are amazed by the outpouring of support and engagement we saw from both members of the campaign and from people all over Washington state. 

This is a huge win for the public and an even greater win for wild fish. Both myself and the thousands of supporting members of the Our Sound, Our Salmon campaign are grateful to the legislature and Governor for protecting our wild salmon from the needless risk posed by this industry.
— Kurt Beardslee, Executive Director, Wild Fish Conservancy

Protesters at the Our Sound, Our Salmon Flotilla event. Photo: John Gussman

There is very little doubt that public support was the primary motivating factor behind the passage of HB2957. This year lawmakers expressed that they heard more from their constituents on the Atlantic salmon net pen issue than any other, and many members of both the House and Senate changed their stance on the issue over the course of the session, having considered the concerns of their constituents. 

We find it heartening that a measure to protect wild fish, marine mammals, and coastal communities was passed in large part due to the outspoken voices of concerned citizens, the very citizens to which our public waters belong. 

We urge Governor Inslee, the Washington State Legislature, and Washington state agencies to stand firm and ensure the phase out outlined in HB 2957 is dutifully executed in the years to come, and to actively mitigate the known risks associated with Atlantic salmon net pens while they continue to operate in Puget Sound. 

We also insist that the study associated with HB2957 be conducted in an independent and objective manner. The Our Sound, Our Salmon coalition maintains that previously established research demonstrates a sufficient level of harm from Atlantic salmon aquaculture to warrant the expulsion of the industry from public waters. Nevertheless, the coalition welcomes further research into the issue, especially if that research is conducted in an independent manner with the goal of mitigating unknown risks prior to the completion of phase out. 

Thank you, again, Governor Inslee, Washington State Legislators, and the engaged citizens of Washington state for prioritizing the needs of our sound, our salmon, and our future. 


Statements from members of the Our Sound, Our Salmon coalition: 

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“A healthy Puget Sound is essential to birds and other wildlife, as well as our economy. With the passage of HB 2957 and the phasing out of Atlantic salmon net pen farming, we will be able to better protect our marine waters for birds, fish and other wildlife for years to come. We commend the lawmakers and concerned citizens who supported passage of this legislation.” 

Gail Gatton, Executive Director, Audubon Washington 

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"This is a big win for clean water, wild salmon and communities around Puget Sound. We thank the legislature and the sponsors of this important act to help us move forward on wild salmon recovery. It was high time for Washington to join other West Coast states in phasing out this dangerous practice." 

Chris Wilke, Executive Director, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance 

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"Saving our endangered Southern Resident killer whale population depends on being more mindful toward restoring the ecosystem and health of Puget Sound. We thank the legislators and Governor Inslee for taking a stand for them and for hearing the voices of Washingtonians loud and clear." 

Shari Tarantino, President, Orca Conservancy 

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"In Bellingham, we saw first-hand the devastation that last August’s Cypress Island Net Pen failure caused to the North Sound’s ecosystem, and the impacts on Lummi Nation tribal fishers. We are grateful to Lummi for their swift response to address the disaster and advocate for legislation, and are pleased Washington lawmakers made a prudent choice. We are hopeful this decision is the first of many demonstrating Washington’s commitment to preventing activities that harm the Sound and the water bodies that feed into it, and accelerating the recovery of declining populations of salmon and endangered orcas.” 

Crina Hoyer, Executive Director, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities

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“This is a tremendous victory for our precious marine ecosystem. Let's hope that Washington State will inspire Canada to also take action to protect the Salish Sea's native salmon species.” 

Stephanie Buffam, Executive Director, Friends of San Juans 

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"This is a significant step in restoring and protecting our wild salmon and resident orca, our clean water and the communities and businesses that rely on a healthy Salish Sea. We applaud the efforts of the legislature in joining other West coast states in phasing out the harmful use of net pens." 

Stephanie Hillman, Sierra Club 

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"This victory is a big step forward for clean water in Washington - protecting against the spread of parasites and disease, threats to native species, and the release of hundreds of thousands of pounds of animal waste into Puget Sound. We are proud to stand with the Our Sound, Our Salmon coalition in fighting to protect our precious waters and wildlife, and working together to ensure clean water for Washington.  We thank Governor Inslee and the state legislators who supported HB 2957 for standing up for our waters and precious natural resources."

Bruce Speight, Executive Director, Environment Washington