More Than Half Of Atlantics Appear To Have Escaped Pen

It appears that more than half of the 305,000 Atlantic salmon in a commercial netpen off Cypress Island were able to get loose when it was damaged two weeks ago, making it the second largest escape in Washington waters.

Cooke Aquaculture reports that the pens are now clear of fish and that the company recovered 142,176 during clean-up operations.

That means somewhere around 163,000 initially escaped before anglers and tribal fishermen swooped in to begin scooping them up.

ANGLERS FISH ALONG THE SHORE NEAR THE LOCATION OF THE CYPRESS ISLAND NETPEN IN HOPES OF LANDING ATLANTIC SALMON. (DNR)

A voluntary catch-reporting tool on WDFW’s website shows the location of where 1,589 have been landed by anglers since Aug. 21, when the escape became widely known.

“Latest fishing reports show that most of the fish have cleared out of Deepwater Bay to surrounding areas and continue to be caught further from Cypress Island,” a report from the agency late Wednesday afternoon stated.

WDFW’s map shows Atlantics caught as far away as off Tofino, which is not quite halfway up the west coast of Vancouver Island, Texada Island, in the Johnstone Strait between the island and mainland British Columbia.

Others have been reported caught in the Samish and Snohomish Rivers, and six were caught off the east side of Bainbridge Island.

Unfortunately, Area 5, where at least 20 were reported caught, has closed to salmon fishing and thus Atlantics as well. After Sept. 4, Area 9 will as well.

Lummi Nation fishermen have removed at least 20,000, and possibly as many as 30,000. The Suquamish and Tulalip Tribes also authorized gillnetting this week.

According to WDFW, there were three large escapes in the 1990s — 107,000 (1996), 369,000 (1997), and 115,000 (1999).

In the wake of August’s disaster, permitting for new netpens has been put on hold while the incident is fully investigated.

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