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DNR Defeats Cooke Aquaculture in Court

Thurston County Superior Court Upholds DNR’s Termination of Cooke Aquaculture’s Net Pen Lease in Port Angeles Harbor

On Friday, Feb. 28, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy rejected Cooke Aquaculture’s (Cooke) challenge to the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) termination of Cooke’s Port Angeles lease. The ruling (available here) found that DNR’s termination was supported in the record and not arbitrary or capricious.


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.


Carlo Davis
Communications Director
Cell: 360-999-9165