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Cooke Aquaculture fined $332,000 for violation

— The state Department of Ecology announced Tuesday that Cooke Aquaculture will be penalized for violating the terms of its water quality permits in relation to the company’s net pen failure last August.

The department flagged the company for poor net cleaning, failure to follow protocol and insufficient attention to engineering, resulting in a fine of $332,000.

Cooke operates four net-pen facilities in Washington state waters, floating operations in which Atlantic salmon are farmed for food.

Cooke’s net pen facility on Cypress Island collapsed last summer, releasing hundreds of thousands of Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound. The event prompted Washington state to terminate the company’s lease.

Ecology worked in collaboration with the state departments of Natural Resources and Fish & Wildlife to investigate the net pen failure, releasing a report on their findings Tuesday. The report attributed the collapse to a lack of maintenance on Cooke’s part.

Natural Resources said in the report that more than 10 tons of mussels and other marine organisms had built up on the net pens, overwhelming the systems that keep the pens afloat. The department said proper maintenance could easily have prevented this build up, and that the company knew about the facility’s poor condition before the collapse took place.

“The collapse was not the result of natural causes,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz during a news conference Tuesday. “Cooke’s disregard caused this disaster and recklessly put our state’s aquatic ecosystem at risk.”

DNR also said the company failed to accurately report the numbers of fish that escaped.



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