For decades, large quantities of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), a non-native species, have been reared in open net-pen facilities in the Puget Sound region with little or no benefit to the Washington State public, and at the expense of the marine environment. The State of Washington has continued to allow these operations to thrive despite they clearly pose a threat to the marine ecosystem and to wild salmon stocks.
1) Waste feed and fecal matter fall through these pens and build up in the protected bays they are often sited in, contaminating the adjacent sediment, and the marine organisms that also utilize these areas as nurseries.
2) Over the years, large numbers of these non-native fish have escaped into the wild. Unfortunately, prior to 1996 these escapes were not recorded. However, according to WDFW, in 1996, 1998, and 1999, over 590,000 of these fish escaped into the wild.
3) The potential threat of pathogen transfer to wild salmon from these fish, which are reared in such close proximity to one another, and the migration routes of wild salmon, especially the out-migration routes of wild salmon smolt, which are particularly vulnerable.It’s not difficult to see how dangerous a virus like ISAv (infectious salmon anemia) could be to wild salmon stocks, as devastating outbreaks have already occurred in Chile and Norway and serve as a reminder. Furthermore, transfers of parasites like sea lice to out-migrating salmon smolt may pose a serious threat, and a number of scientists believe they may be driving British Columbia’s wild salmon populations to dangerously low levels.
4) The Washington State general public is not benefiting from these operations, and for the many individuals in the commercial and sport fishing communities, their continued existence in our waters can be nothing less than detrimental.
5) The State of Alaska recognized the environmental and economic threats that the open net-pen Atlantic salmon aquaculture industry posed, and banned the practice long ago. It only seems fitting that the State of Washington should do the same. In addition, It is widely known in the aquaculture community that much safer techniques are available to artificially produce salmonids.
Thank you for your help in removing these operations from our waters.