Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz released the following statement after the ruling:“Thank you to Judge Murphy for upholding the right of the Department of Natural Resources to hold accountable a company that failed to operate safely and comply with the terms of its lease. My duty is to ensure that no company endangers the health of Washington’s waters, which support our culture, economy, and native salmon and orcas. It is a privilege, not a right, to do business on public waters, and I will always enforce the high-standards we have for lessees. I again call on Cooke Aquaculture to drop its baseless lawsuits.”
Background – Port Angeles
In December of 2017, DNR terminated Cooke’s Port Angeles lease due to Cooke operating in an unauthorized area and failing to maintain the facility in a safe condition. Cooke challenged that termination in the superior court.
Cooke has 30 days to appeal Judge Murphy’s ruling. A copy of the ruling is available here.
Background – Cypress Island
In August of 2017, a net pen at Cooke’s Cypress Island fish farm collapsed, releasing hundreds of thousands of Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound. As a result, DNR terminated that lease. Cooke’s appeal of the Cypress Island termination is still pending in the superior court.
Cooke has filed additional lawsuits related to both the Cypress Island and Port Angeles lease terminations seeking damages for alleged breach of contract and due process violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Those lawsuits are still pending in the superior court.