Tag Archives: Atlantic salmon

Citing Exotic Virus, WDFW Says No To Cooke Putting 800K Atlantics Into Rich Passage Net Pen

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Citing the risk of fish disease transmission, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has denied permission for Cooke Aquaculture to transport 800,000 juvenile Atlantic salmon from its hatchery near Rochester to net pens at Rich Passage in Kitsap County.

In late April, Cooke applied for permission to move juvenile non-native salmon from its hatchery into pens in Kitsap County to replace adult fish that were recently harvested. Washington lawmakers enacted a bill earlier this year that will phase out Atlantic salmon net-pen aquaculture by 2022, but Cooke plans to continue to operate until then.

WDFW officials cited two factors in denying the permit that they said would increase the risk of disease transmission within the net pens and possibly to wild and hatchery-raised Pacific salmon outside the pens:

  • The population of Atlantic salmon that would have been transported from Cooke’s hatchery near Rochester tested positive for a form of the fish virus PRV (piscine orthoreovirus) that is essentially the same as the PRV that occurs at the Iceland hatchery from which Cooke receives Atlantic salmon eggs. The Icelandic form of PRV is not known to occur in the eastern Pacific Ocean or Puget Sound, so WDFW classifies it as “exotic” in Washington.
  • Cooke proposed to place fish into pens that have not been empty (or “fallow”) for at least 30 days after the most recent harvest of adult fish, and within a farm that still contains adult Atlantic salmon. These actions would contradict the company’s own management plan.

“Each of these factors raised an unacceptable risk of introducing an exotic strain of PRV into Washington marine waters,” said Ken Warheit, WDFW fish health manager. “This would represent an unknown and therefore unacceptable risk of disease transmission.”

Warheit said samples of the juvenile fish that would have been transported were collected by an independent licensed veterinarian under contract with Cooke.  The samples were tested for PRV at the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at Washington State University. Test results were confirmed at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Washington Fisheries Research Center.

Until recently, Cooke operated up to nine net pens in Puget Sound, including one at Cypress Island in Skagit County that collapsed last August and allowed approximately 250,000 Atlantic salmon to escape. The company’s latest permit application is not related to the Cypress Island operation or the August mishap.

Atlantic Salmon Suck. So Does All The BS Around Them

I am not pro-Atlantic salmon. I am not pro-netpen. I am not pro-Cooke Aquaculture. But I am anti-bullshit.

My bullshitometer has been going off for six months now, but recently it just got too deep for me to tolerate any longer without comment.

ATLANTIC SALMON COVER THE DECK OF FISHING BOAT LAST AUGUST. (KEVIN KLEIN)

The Wild Fish Conservancy’s hysterical claim last week that Cooke’s escapees from the Cypress Island fish farm are ridden with an exotic virus strikes me as not unlike what I have heard repeatedly from the darkest recesses of the Northwest wolf world.

It goes along the lines of, Those non-native Canadian wolves USFWS brought down are infected with hydatid disease and rural people are in danger of catching it from all the wolf poo piles now lying around the woods!!!

WFC’s press release announcing this supposed disaster came with a raft of citations, but afterwards they appeared to be the equivalent of weblinks to wolf haters’ usual references from Russia and whatever.

They were systematically batted away by WDFW in a strident response noting that the virus, PRV, has been known to exist here since 1987, is found in salmon from Alaska south to Washington if not beyond, and is carried by netpen and free-swimming fish alike. The disease that WFC fretted it can cause isn’t found in our salmon and only some penned Atlantics. Nor is it fatal.

Not unlike most of the vitriol that the rabid anti-lupus set hurls from their keyboards, it appears that WFC’s claim was actually a sheep in wolf’s clothing.

It was fear-mongering by the Duvall-based organization, plain and simple, written to make it look as if the state agency in charge of monitoring fish disease didn’t know what the hell it was doing and released at a key moment during the legislative session to chivvy lawmakers to an even more rushed decision on the fate of salmon aquaculture in Washington.

WFC hasn’t apologized to WDFW, nor is it likely — in fact, this morning, they doubled down with a new press release.

Yet what is likely is they’ll probably be able to leverage the widespread initial coverage of their claims and get away with the less-than-damning subsequent reporting, positioning themselves well in this world for coming jihads.

Again, I want to stress that I am no friend of Cooke, netpens or Atlantics.

The company could grow salmon that taste like Cool Ranch Doritos and I’d still turn my nose up at the flesh — a friend who caught one last month on the Skykomish claimed “it was good,” but to this provincial Northwest Chinook, coho, sockeye and steelhead snob, that meat doesn’t cut.

FARMED ATLANTIC SALMON FROM NORWAY OFFERED FOR SALE AT COSTCO AND ULTIMATELY RETURNED TO THE COLD CASE AFTER A GOOD, SOLID SNEERING AT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Netpens pollute. If they were new housing developments, we’d require sewer hookups or better ways to treat all that fish waste rather than let it drift in the currents or settle on the bottom of an inland sea that doesn’t flush itself very well in places.

And I’m skeptical of Cooke’s claims it was going to upgrade the aging equipment that came over from Icicle Seafoods when it bought them out. Would they really have if they hadn’t been caught with their hands in the cookie jar?

But this whole thing has been an embarrassment, and I include everything from the Canadian company’s August-eclipse-tides excuse and its shellfish-and seaweed-covered nets that acted as underwater sails and caused the catastrophe to the theory the escapees were just going to starve and die to Hilary Franz’s surprise Sunday morning termination determination on the Cypress Island facility to the latest pseudoscience from WFC.

For the last month and a half state legislators have been tripping all over themselves trying to outlaw farming a species that realistically poses little to no threat to our native salmon stocks, yet couldn’t get the one bill that would have assured that — allowing only female Atlantics to be reared — out of committee.

I can’t be the only one wondering, what exactly is behind all this? What big game is being played here? Who stands to gain the most?

And worrying, when will all this negative energy be focused on something that I actually do care about?

WDFW Refutes Wild Fish Conservancy’s Latest Atlantic Salmon Claims

Last night’s Wild Fish Conservancy press release stating that “contrary to” WDFW statements, Northwest salmon face dire consequences from “a highly contagious and harmful virus” in escaped netpen fish is overblown, riddled with errors and misrepresentative.

So says the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in a blistering rebuttal to the Duvall outfit’s claim that a lab it had sent 19 Atlantic salmon to found all of them to be infected with an exotic strain of a fish virus, which WFC suggested could spread a disease that weakens our native salmon.

AN ATLANTIC SALMON CAUGHT ON THE SKYKOMISH RIVER AT SULTAN ON JANUARY 8, THE HEAD AND ORGANS OF WHICH WERE SENT TO WDFW FOR ITS OWN TESTING . (ERIC BELL)

The nonnative salmon reared for the table in sea enclosures have become a hot-button issue in Washington and across the border in British Columbia as tribal interests, certain state agencies and legislators and special interest groups try to push them out of Northwest waters using whatever means possible, fair and otherwise.

This is also not the first rodeo for WDFW and the Wild Fish Conservancy, which sued the state in 2014 in an attempt to end consumptive steelheading in Puget Sound, and which has attacked hatchery salmon production elsewhere.

Their latest move calls into question WDFW’s science and its word, and so the agency tasked Ken Warheit, its fish and genetic specialist, to respond to WFC’s claims. He begins with four bullet points.

“The Wild Fish Conservancy’s news release confuses the virus (PRV) with the disease (HSMI), misuses the scientific literature to exaggerate risks to native salmon, and fails to find a single study to support the claim that PRV from open-water pens will harm wild fish,” reads Warheit’s statement.

“The Conservancy asserts – without evidence – that HSMI will harm wild salmon. However, HSMI has never been detected in our native salmon or any other fish except farmed Atlantic salmon,” Warheit continues.

“PRV occurs naturally and was first confirmed in the Salish Sea from fish samples taken in 1987. The Conservancy provides no data or scientific research to support its claim that the PRV found in escaped fish originated in Norway,” he says.

And Warheit adds that PRV isn’t even recognized as a “pathogen of concern” currently by the World Organization for Animal Health.

Warheit then takes the Wild Fish Conservancy’s press release apart line by line, as well as counters the organization claim that WDFW’s Amy Windrope misled the public during a late January press conference with DNR and the Department of Ecology when she reported the Atlantic salmon had been healthy when they’d gotten loose.

In that release, WFC’s “outraged” Kurt Beardslee said “I’m outraged this disease is being amplified into our public waters, and I’m outraged our state agencies are willfully misleading the public. When the public finds out about this atrocity, they will be outraged as well. Wild salmon are the environmental, social, economic, and cultural cornerstone of this region, we can’t afford to put them at greater risk. We need to take corrective actions and remove this dangerous industry from Puget Sound before it’s too late.”

However, Warheit states that, “WDFW never claimed that PRV was not present in escaped Atlantic salmon. In fact, in the state’s report investigating the Cypress #2 accident, WDFW was the first to report the presence of PRV in the escaped Atlantic salmon. Ms. Amy Windrope’s quote that appeared in WFC’s press release was accurate and subsequent statements at the press briefing specifically dealt with the presence of PRV and stated that WDFW found PRV in the escaped Atlantic salmon. None of the escaped Atlantic salmon with PRV examined by WDFW had HSMI.”

He says that PRV is not only present in netpen salmon but free-swimming ones as well from Alaska south to Washington, if not further down the West Coast.

“In most cases, fish with PRV are healthy, and show no signs of disease,” Warheit says. “The syndrome HSMI has been associated with PRV in Atlantic salmon aquaculture only. HSMI affects only a small subset of captive Atlantic salmon with PRV and in most cases HSMI is not fatal.”

To back that up, he points to a white paper prepared last September by the Pacific Northwest Fish Health Protection Committee’s TR Meyers of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

But Warheit states that several of WFC’s citations either don’t support the organizations’s claims, are misused or are speculative.

“… Although PRV genetic sequences from eastern Pacific closely resemble that from Norway, there are differences between these sets of sequences, and it would have been more informative if WFC provided information about the sequences, rather than speculating about the origin of the PRV found in the escaped Atlantic salmon,” he states.

Meanwhile, bills banning new Atlantic netpen operations have been passed in the state Legislature and a couple weekends ago, DNR’s Hillary Franz terminated Cooke Aquaculture’s Cypress Island lease, where all this began back in August.

Cooke Disputes Washington Agencies’ Report On Netpen Escapee Numbers

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM COOKE AQAUCULTURE

Cooke Aquaculture Pacific on Tuesday criticized the state’s multi-agency draft report on the Cypress Island net pen collapse, pointing out numerous factual inaccuracies that led investigators to leap to erroneous conclusions.

COOKE AQUACULTURE RESPONDED TO TODAY’S STATE AGENCY FINAL REPORT WITH A 13-PAGE LETTER DISPUTING SOME ELEMENTS. (COOKE AQUACULTURE)

“Cooke Aquaculture was shut out of this investigation by the state agencies,” said Joel Richardson, vice president of public relations at Cooke, Inc. “As a result, investigators with limited experience in aquaculture or net-pen operations have produced an inaccurate and misleading document that appears to be intended to fuel the push by aquaculture opponents to put Cooke out of business in Washington state.”

Notably, the state accused Cooke of overestimating the number of fish it recovered from the collapsed nets. In fact, Cooke employees counted each fish as it was recovered under the state’s supervision. The report’s estimate, meanwhile, was based on a flawed estimate of the average weight of the recovered fish.

The report, “2017 Cypress Island Atlantic Salmon Net Pen Failure: An Investigation and Review” was compiled by the state’s Ecology, Fish & Wildlife, and Natural Resources departments. The final report is slated for release today at an 11 a.m. news conference timed to influence the Legislature’s ongoing deliberations about bills related to aquaculture, including proposals that would effectively ban salmon farming in Washington.

Cooke Aquaculture Pacific was given just three days to provide feedback on a 266-page draft – a review period that ran from Friday to Monday – and was instructed not to dispute the report’s analysis or conclusions. Today’s press conference was announced three hours after the agencies received Cooke’s comments.

“We provided substantive comment back to the agencies under an unfairly brief timeline to address the report’s major factual errors and omissions about what occurred at our facility last August,” said Richardson. “We cooperated fully with the investigation and stood ready to provide expertise, background and context to help the investigators in their work. Unfortunately, we don’t believe the public or lawmakers are getting a complete and accurate picture from this report.”

The after-the-fact questioning of Cooke’s accounting of fish removed from the net pen structure is the most egregious – but not only – example of the report’s inaccuracy.

“The same people that supervised and approved the counting of the fish created this new analysis, based on back-of-the-envelope math involving the capacity of a tender vessel and the ridiculous notion that the recovered fish weighed 7 pounds apiece,” Richardson said. “As the photographs in the report itself show, many of the fish were severely damaged by the time they were recovered and would have been far lighter.”

Another example of the report’s inaccuracy is the blanket assumptions about the condition of the nets.

“We acknowledge that the site fell behind in net hygiene prior to the mooring failures in July. However, Cooke provided the investigators extensive documentation of the washing performed at Site 2 after the July incident,” Richardson explained. “Although the report is correct that mussels were present in the bottom of the nets, the investigative panel lacked the expertise to make that judgment about the relationship between fouling and drag and did not rely upon alternate expertise when forming the conclusions reflected in the report.”

Cooke endeavoured to cooperate with the investigation from its inception but was excluded from meaningful participation after only a few weeks. While Cooke was excluded, two Native American tribes which have repeatedly called for the ban of Cooke’s operations were given full access to the process and allowed to provide comments and observations during the deliberations.

“Excluding Cooke but including net-pen opponents stacks the deck against Cooke,” said Richardson. “Tribes, lawmakers, Cooke, the public – we all deserve to know the truth, and this report should be driven by a full and accurate understanding of the facts. Unfortunately, this document is neither accurate nor objective.”

Cooke responded to the draft report on Monday morning with a thirteen-page letter highlighting its glaring inaccuracies. Slightly more than three hours later, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz called today’s news conference, demonstrating that the agencies never intended to evaluate or respond to Cooke’s legitimate concerns.

State Agencies Pin Atlantic Salmon Netpen Collapse On ‘Cooke’s Negligence’

THE FOLLOWING IS A JOINT PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENTS OF ECOLOGY, FISH AND WILDLIFE AND NATURAL RESOURCES

State investigators have determined that an excessive buildup of mussels and other marine organisms on nets – caused by Cooke Aquaculture’s failure to properly clean them – led to the August 19 collapse of the company’s net pen at Cypress Island.

THE COVER OF THE THREE STATE AGENCIES’ FINAL 120-PAGE REPORT ON THE CAUSE OF THE AUG. 2017 NETPEN COLLAPSE SHOWS THE COOKE AQUACULTURE FACILITY. (DOE, DFW, DNR)

An investigative report – authored by the departments of Natural Resources (DNR), Ecology, and Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) – found that 110 tons of mussels and plants had accumulated on the nets before the incident. The report was released today at a news conference in Olympia.

The investigation determined that tidal currents pushing against the tremendous mass of organisms on the nets overwhelmed the pen’s mooring system and crushed the pen.

Extensive corrosion of the net pen structure also contributed to the collapse.

In addition, the agencies identified shortcomings in engineering practices that likely contributed to the failure.

Properly designed and maintained net pens would have withstood the tidal currents of August 19.

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

“The results of our investigative report clearly show a significant violation of Washington’s water quality laws,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon. “Cooke Aquaculture could have prevented this failure.”

STATE AGENCIES SAY THAT AROUND A QUARTER MILLION ATLANTIC SALMON LIKELY ESCAPED FROM THE DAMAGED NETPENS. SOME ARE STILL BEING CAUGHT, THIS ONE BY ERIC BELL ON THE SKYKOMISH RIVER AT SULTAN ON JANUARY 8. (ERIC BELL)

“Cooke made this situation even more difficult by under-reporting the number of fish that escaped during the net-pen collapse, and over-reporting the number it recovered afterward,” said Amy Windrope, WDFW’s north Puget Sound regional director.

Growth of mussels and other marine organisms on nets – called “biofouling” – is documented in state agency videos that show a “rain” of mussels falling off nets as debris from the collapse was removed.

The severe biofouling produced 110 tons of material – an average of 11 tons per net.

Cooke’s Failure to Act

Prior to the collapse, Cooke was aware of both the excessive biofouling and the poor condition of the facility.

The report details how Cooke didn’t follow its net pen cleaning schedule when broken net washers were not repaired or replaced. This allowed mussels to accumulate on the nets, which increased the drag from currents and added pressure to the structure.

Cooke also failed to take necessary precautions after the net pens were moved out of position in July when strong currents broke ten mooring points.

Cooke documents show that after the July incident, the company had serious concerns about the facility. An internal company email stated, “We almost lost the farm.”

Nevertheless, after the July incident, Cooke considered, but did not:

  • Replace the biofouled nets,
  • Begin their salmon harvest early, or
  • Increase monitoring of the net pens and have a tug on standby when strong currents were again expected on August 19.

The report notes that state agencies did not investigate the July incident because they received incomplete and misleading information from Cooke.

More Salmon Escaped Than Cooke Reported

The report also found that Cooke misrepresented the number of fish it harvested when the pen collapsed. According to the report:

  • There were 305,000 fish in the net pen prior to failure.
  • Cooke reported harvesting/extracting 145,000 fish from the collapsed net pen.
  • The investigation concluded that Cooke could only have extracted between 42,000 and 62,000 fish.
  • Therefore, between 243,000 and 263,000 fish actually escaped. Previous estimates, based on Cooke’s reports, put the number of escaped fish at 160,000.
  • Of the escaped fish, 57,000 have been caught.
  • Between 186,000 and 206,000 Atlantic salmon remain unaccounted for.

The report concludes that monitoring through the winter and next fall’s salmon run season will be critical to knowing if any escaped Atlantic salmon remain in Washington’s waters and if they are reproducing.

Commissioner Franz is currently reviewing the report and will make an announcement about the future of the Cypress Island facility in the coming days.

In December, DNR terminated Cooke’s lease of state aquatic lands in Port Angeles, citing a failure to maintain the facility in a safe condition.

Ecology intends to take enforcement action against Cooke Aquaculture for violating Washington’s water quality laws.

This multi-agency report included information collected during and after the incident, interviews with Cooke staff, and an engineering review of the failure.

More documents and information is available at www.dnr.wa.gov/atlanticsalmon

More Atlantic Salmon On The Way To Washington: 1.8m Eggs From Iceland

Some 1.8 million Atlantic salmon eggs have been cleared to ship to a private Washington fish hatchery later this week.

The move will likely leave the Governor’s Office, DNR, tribes and others on the anti-Atlantic fish-farming bandwagon fuming.

But Cooke Aquaculture received the transfer permit from WDFW late yesterday after the company applied for it in mid-September and the state agency determined Cooke “met all the fish health standards required under state law.”

ATLANTIC SALMON EGGS. (USFWS)

Governor Inslee has ordered no new netpens be authorized before an investigation into the collapse of Cooke’s Cypress Island farm in mid-August is finished, but WDFW says it doesn’t have the authority to block the importation of the “healthy” eggs.

The eggs are coming from Cooke’s hatchery in western Iceland, near Reykjavik, and will be reared at its Rochester facility south of Olympia.

Last week, WDFW approved transporting 1 million 6- to 22-ounce Atlantics from the rearing ponds there to a netpen in Rich Passage in Puget Sound.

That saltwater facility came under scrutiny this week from the Department of Natural Resources after a contractor found above-water corrosion and a hole in a net. Cooke was given 60 days to fix it or lose their state lease.

There’s been much ado about raising Atlantics in Pacific waters in recent months, including before and after around 160,000 of 305,000 escaped from Cypress Island.

However, no known populations of the nonnative salmon have taken hold from spills in Puget Sound in the 1990s, and a recent article in the Vancouver Sun notes that despite British Columbia government making 200 attempts to kickstart runs in 52 different water bodies over a period dating back to 1905 using a total of 13.5 million eggs, young fish and smolts, zero were successful.

The Cypress escapees were 3-year-olds and incapable of breeding until next year, if any even are still alive.

Agency OKs Moving Atlantic Salmon Smolts Into Bainbridge Netpen

A month and a half after a commercial netpen failed elsewhere in Puget Sound, state regulators have approved a shipment of 1 million young Atlantic salmon into another floating enclosure here.

WDFW says that Cooke Aquaculture’s facilities in the Bremerton area’s Rich Passage — the site of a protest flotilla in mid-September — were inspected by the Departments of Ecology and Natural Resources and “met structural, water quality, and fish health requirements.”

FARMED ATLANTIC SALMON FROM NORWAY OFFERED FOR SALE AT THE SHORELINE COSTCO RECENTLY; IT WAS PUT BACK IN THE COLD CASE IN HOPES THE EDITOR WOULD CATCH A COHO FOR DINNER INSTEAD. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The agency issued a transportation permit to the company late Monday.

While Governor Jay Inslee has banned permitting new netpens during investigations into why the international conglomerate’s Cypress Island operation broke up in mid-August — there are indications of aging equipment due to be replaced — state laws didn’t preclude moving the “healthy” 12- to 16-month-old fish into another enclosure, according to WDFW.

Cooke had applied in late August to transport the Atlantics from its rearing ponds in Rochester south of Olympia to Clam Bay, even as efforts to capture their 160,000 or so 8- to 10-pound adult escapees were ongoing in the San Juans.

A press release from the Governor’s Office said that Inslee is “very concerned” about the transfer, and called it “disappointing and frustrating” in light of August’s events.

He said his office had asked Cooke to withdraw the permit application “for our tribes, for our citizens, for our environment and for the industry’s long-term prospects.”

Around 305,000 of the market fish were being finished in the Cypress netpens this summer, and 140,000 were recovered inside them after the failure.

Through last week tribal fishermen have netted around 50,000, while hook-and-line anglers reported catching nearly 1,950, with another 3,000 or so caught by nontribal commercial fishermen.

This isn’t to say Atlantics don’t pale in comparison — and in more ways than one — to native Pacific salmon, but the breakout led to numerous wild claims about the fish.

A Sept. 11 initial assessment and Sept. 14 update found Cooke’s fish were “healthy” when the incident occurred, weren’t faring well in Puget Sound based on signs of anorexia, the stomachs of tribally sampled fish were “empty” and no signs of fish pathogens had been found in salmon recovered early on.

There was, however, an interesting note in that report: “Necropsy findings indicate an active inflammatory process of unknown origin originating in the gastrointestinal tract in the later September capture group.”

Neither large escapes from netpens in the 1990s nor directed stocking efforts in the 1980s resulted in breeding populations of the nonnative salmon in Puget Sound rivers.

Cooke will move the young Atlantics from the hatchery to netpen through the fall, according to WDFW, and they will be grown there until mid- to late 2019 before they are harvested.

Editor’s note: An earlier version reported the age of the Atlantics being moved from rearing ponds to Clam Bay as 2 years old, but subsequent information has come in that they will be a year to 16 months old.

 

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.

Map Highlights Atlantic Salmon Catches; 120K Recovered From Damaged Pens

Cooke Aquaculture says it’s recovered nearly 120,000 Atlantic salmon from a damaged North Sound netpen, while a new WDFW map is showing where and how many of the escapees anglers have caught.

The agency’s website reports that as of 1:31 p.m. this afternoon, 889 have been reported landed everywhere from Ucluelet, BC, to the Samish River to Alki Beach, but mostly along the east side of Cypress Island, where the pen is anchored.

(WDFW)

WDFW says it appreciates all the help and reports from anglers, and notes that there’s now a 100-yard “safety zone” around the damaged facility.

Another 20,000 were reported caught over the weekend by Lummi Nation netters.

Work being done today at the site should help determine how many of the 305,000 nonnative salmon that had been raised for market actually got loose.

It provided an unexpected bounty for anglers but also widespread outcry from fishermen and others, and led the state to suspend issuing new permits for more Atlantic salmon netpens before a full review of the spill is done.

Meanwhile, catches appear to be getting tougher, or at least the big numbers from the first few days have faded away as as many as 80 boats have been working the Secret Harbor pen, but we thought we’d pass along so more advice on how to land ’em.

Wayne Heinz spends his summers fishing and crabbing in the San Juans, and he called the angling right after the damage occurred “the best … salmon fishing in decades.”

“They hit Berkley PowerBait brown sparkle dough and also yellow trout eggs,” he tips.

Use a spinning rod setup strung with 12-pound-test clear mono line, a 3/8-ounce sinker and a 5-foot leader, Heinz advises.

“Anchor 30 to 40 feet deep along the rocky shore  by broken pen  among many other boats. Cast. Slow retrieve. Most fish are 6 to 16 feet deep. They fight hard and go aerial,” he says.

Others have done well with spinners, and a Sekiu resort reported landed some on herring.

For more on the ins and outs of angling for Atlantics, check out WDFW’s website for info.

To Track Dispersing Atlantics, WDFW Asks Anglers To Chart Catches

THE FOLLOWING IS A WDFW PRESS RELEASE

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is encouraging anglers who catch Atlantic salmon that escaped from a salmon farm near the San Juan Islands last Saturday to report their catch online.

Although anglers are not required to log Atlantic salmon on their catch record cards, state fish managers are requesting anglers report their catch online in an effort to track fish being caught.

The form for reporting can be found online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/salmon/atlantic_salmon_catch.php.

“We’re hoping to track how many Atlantic salmon have been recovered by sport anglers and how far those fish have dispersed,” said Ron Warren, head of WDFW’s fish program. “If you’ve caught one of these fish over the last few days, or if you catch one in the near future, please let us know.”

Warren noted the escaped Atlantic salmon are 8 to 10 pounds in size and are safe for people to eat.

WDFW also is deploying additional employees to assist with creel checks in the Bellingham Bay area to help collect data on encounters with Atlantic salmon.

Cooke Aquaculture notified the department of a net pen failure Aug. 19 that allowed Atlantic salmon to escape from the company’s Cypress Island location. The net pen held 305,000 salmon but the number of escaped Atlantic salmon is still undetermined.

The department is working with Cooke and other state agencies to determine the number of fish that actually escaped.

WDFW is responsible for monitoring fish diseases and shares regulatory authority for net pen operations with several other agencies, local governments and tribes.

Anglers must have a current fishing license and must also observe gear regulations identified in the 2017-18 sport fishing rules pamphlet.

There is no size or catch limit on Atlantic salmon. However, anglers may only fish for Atlantic salmon in marine waters that are already open to fishing for Pacific salmon or freshwater areas open to fishing for trout or Pacific salmon. Anglers also must stop fishing for Atlantic salmon once they’ve caught their daily limit of Pacific salmon in marine waters or their daily limit of trout or Pacific salmon in freshwater.