In March 2018 Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, signed into law a bill that will end farming of non-native Atlantic salmon in the state’s marine waters, as reported by NPR’s food blog The Salt.
The move follows the failure of a net-pen aquaculture operation that buckled in strong currents (see the Seattle Times photo, right) on a calm summer day in 2017. The collapsed pens released 250,000 Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound, waters that are home to vulnerable native Pacific salmon species, including three Endangered Species Act listed populations.
While operators initially blamed the farm’s collapse on extreme eclipse tides, a theory quickly dismissed by some basic oceanography, state inspectors later determined that corroded and overgrown infrastructure at the farm was to blame.
This extreme case of operator error was the last straw in a state that has spent millions on recovery efforts for native salmon. The bill signed this month means that all remaining seven Atlantic salmon farms in Washington waters will be closed by 2022, when the last of the leases with the state end.
Meanwhile, during the fall spawning season following the fish-farm collapse, Atlantic salmon were found over 40 miles inland in Puget Sound rivers. Pacific Northwesterners are hoping this invasion won’t, in turn, be the last straw for fragile native salmon populations.
John Ryan, “After 3 Decades, Washington State Bans Atlantic Salmon Farms,” NPR – The Salt, March 26, 2018.