5 Oct. 2017
Cooke Aquaculture offers $1.5m in compensation to tribes affected by Washington escape
Billion-dollar, New Brunswick-based multinational Cooke Aquaculture has offered more than $1.5 million USD to several groups belonging to Washington State’s Coast Salish tribes that helped respond to a recent salmon escape, the company said in a press release.
Cooke garnered a rash of negative publicity in August after a pen near Cypress Island, Wash., containing around 300,000 Atlantic salmon failed allowing many to escape. Both Cooke and State agencies have admitted that they knew in advance that the industrial feedlot pens were faulty and likely to fail.
Despite please from the state’s governor not to install more salmon farms offshore, Cooke announced earlier in the week its plans to fill another set of industrial salmon cages with 1.5 million salmon.
More than 100,000 of the escaped fish are still unaccounted for and thought by Cooke to be dead. Environmental groups, Native American tribes and others raised concerns that the escaped Atlantics posed health risks to wild Pacific salmon stocks. Cooke, state agencies and fishers from several of the tribes responded to remove as many of the Atlantics as possible.
The escapees have been recorded in British Columbia rivers more than 250 miles from the escape “disaster.”
As of Oct. 4, Cooke said that it had accounted for roughly two-thirds of the Atlantics: 145,851 were recovered inside the collapsed pen and another 49,892 were caught in a buy-back program that several tribes participated in, Cooke said in a statement.
She added that the fishing efforts to recover the Atlantics “are winding down because it’s not believed that the remaining fish are alive at this point.”
CEO Glenn Cooke thanked the Coast Salish tribes that have helped in the fishing recovery effort. In 2012, Cooke and two other company executives face federal charges for illegal dumping of toxic pesticides in the Bay of Fundy off New Brunswick. The trio pleaded guilty and were levied fines of $500,000.
“We are tremendously grateful for the assistance from several Coast Salish tribes in the recovery of the escaped fish, especially given the deep concern that many tribal members have about potential impacts to native salmon runs in their ancestral waters,” Cooke said. “On the positive side, there is no evidence that any of the escaped fish from the Cypress Island incident are occupying native fish habitat or depleting native fish food supplies. We have inspected over five-hundred recovered fish stomachs, each of which was entirely empty of material.”
ATLANTICS IN PACIFIC
He added that despite concerns that the fish could interbreed with wild stocks, that isn’t possible, in part, because the Atlantics were a year shy of sexual maturity. Also because previous government efforts that saw millions of Atlantics released into Pacific waters failed to see those stocks survive.
“We want to work with the tribes on this,” said Cooke. “We have asked for the ongoing input and participation from several Coast Salish tribes in a scientific monitoring program that includes the selection of academic researchers, the sharing of real-time sampling and testing data, as well as consultation and coordination with their tribal fisheries experts. We have also offered to expand their expert capacity by funding some full-time positions within their tribal fisheries departments or at their tribal hatcheries.”