Save Our Salmon, Save Our Orcas by Diana Somervile

Save Our Salmon, Save our Orcas
By Diana Somervile
Whether it’s from the beach, while riding on a ferry or a whale-watching cruise, seeing orcas in the wild is a uniquely memorable experience. Our struggling pod of endangered southern resident killer whales – just 78 of them as of December 2016 — add a minimum of $65-$70 million to Washington State’s economy.
Yet Washington is the only state along the orcas’ travel routes that allows net pen farming in their waters. Alaska, California, and Oregon have all outlawed them. Net pen operations dump thousands of tons of pollution into ocean waters and deposit tons more into ocean floor sediments. Which condemns orcas, wild salmon and other fish to swim, eat, hunt, and breed in a toxic aquatic feedlot environment.
Raising Atlantic salmon in open water net pens has an abysmal safety record. Concentrated populations of these non-native fish trigger major outbreaks of viruses and transmit parasites to wild fish. Especially vulnerable are our native salmon – the primary food of our orcas.
Wait, what?
Meanwhile, in a classic left hand – right hand story, Washington continues spending who knows how much in wild salmon recovery efforts, removing culverts and dams, supporting hatcheries and monitoring fishing. Washington waters are home to five salmon species — and the state has not yet found ways to balance the threatened and still surviving wild salmon with hatchery raised ones.
Maybe you’ve heard about the specially trained orca poop-sniffing dogs? They take to the seas with UW researchers that are gathering evidence showing that orcas are so stressed by a food (read salmon) shortage that the females are miscarrying their young.
Let’s remember, orca and salmon are culturally, spiritually, and economically important to all those along the Salish Sea.
And Washington alone allows – actually encourages — raising Atlantic salmon in net pens in its waters.
A 14-acre fish feedlot off Ediz Hook?
The Department of Ecology, now working on new recommendations for managing commercial net pen aquaculture, is asking Clallam County to green light a plan from Cooke Aquaculture. The international behemoth Cooke Aquaculture wants nearly 10 acres a mile and a half offshore and three-some mile east of Ediz Hook for 14 net pens that extend 45 feet below the water’s surface.
The Department of Ecology is now working on new recommendations for managing commercial net pen aquaculture — starting right here in Clallam County. A mile and a half offshore and three-some miles east of Ediz Hook is where international behemoth Cooke Aquaculture wants nearly 10 acres for 14 net pens that extend 45 feet below the water’s surface.
The majority of salmon farms in the Atlantic Region are owned and operated by Cooke Aquaculture, which also has feedlot farms in Maine, Chile and Scotland. Cooke salmon farms in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Chile “have had many instances of sea lice epidemics and virulent outbreaks of infectious salmon anemia (ISA).”
Raising Atlantic salmon in our open marine waters is a mistake, environmentally and economically.

Time to say NO. Not here. Not anywhere in Washington waters.”
*Orcas and salmon are deeply woven into the cultural fabric of the Indigenous tribes along the Salish Sea.
* Residents and visitors alike enjoy our salmon, shellfish, rockfish, crabs, prawns and shrimp.
* Orcas’ survival depends on a healthy population of salmon.
* Industrial net pens threaten salmon.
* Only Washington alone allows – actually encourages — raising Atlantic salmon in net pens in its waters.
*Alaska, California, and Oregon have all banned Atlantic salmon net pens. According to the Wild Fish Conservancy, the states recognize the damage net pens impose on their wild fish populations, the high risk of disease, infections, parasites and potential genetic damage. as well as potential impacts on wild fish.
Then there’s the money.
Wildlife watchers spend around $1 billion annually in Washington, primarily in rural areas like Clallam County. Wildlife watching activities support more than 21,000 jobs in Washington, yield $426.9 million in job income, and generate $56.9 million in state and $67.4 million a year in federal tax revenues. (These are 2002 numbers, the most current Google could find; more recent numbers would no doubt be higher.)

It makes no sense – certainly not economic sense – to risk all this to support an international corporation with a less-than-stellar record that wants to fatten its bottom line by taking advantage of the fragile ecosystem that belongs to all of us.

Make your voice heard:
* Sign a petition to Governor Inslee: – home

* Attend the September 7 public hearing before the Clallam County Hearings Examiner, 2:00 pm, Room 160, Clallam County Courthouse, 223 East Fourth Street, Port Angeles.
Details: Greg Ballard, Project Planner or (360) 565-2616
Offices at 223 E. 4th St., Suite 5, Port Angeles, WA 98362


  1. Greg

    The subject of overpopulation is now taboo. But if we continue to bury the subject of the world’s burgeoning population, why should we talk about how we will feed everyone and which projects with that goal are appropriate?

  2. Alan Clark

    A good concise explanation of why salmon net-pen aquaculture is a no-win for NW Washington communities, marine mammals, and for wild fish. The only things I would add it that in a recent PDN article, representatives from Cooke Aquaculture down-played escapement issues, saying escaped fish just stay around the net-pen site. Tell that to the Alaskan fishermen that caught escaped BC-raised Atlantic salmon 600 miles away from the escape site. Atlantic salmon have also been found in freshwater rivers and streams, taking nesting sites away from native fish.

  3. Richard

    You want jobs then you go and try to kill the fish farms jobs.
    DOE is endorsing but you know better because you searched on “Google”?

    Editor’s Note: DOE is also overseeing the harbor clean up. How’s that going for the last 17 years?

    1. Alan Clark

      Richard – No, Google isn’t necessary, as I worked in marine biological research in the 70s and 80s, worked in a marine parasitology lab, raised salmon myself, followed the research literature (pro and con), and have visited salmon net-pen aquaculture sites in BC. I’ll be glad to send you some cites for pertinent research if you’d like to read it. Currently recreational salmon fishing supports more jobs than our local salmon net-pens. So by all means, use Google, but understand that the government, both federal and state, have their agendas and they’ve committed themselves to the myth of salmon net-pens as a sustainable, healthy way to raise fish. But if you want to believe everything they tell you, that’s what you’re going to do.

  4. Richard

    Alan – The google comment was to draw attention to the research performed. I could google any topic and get information to support any position I choose. POC claims it is a better source of information than others and they deserve to be called out on the issue.

    As to fish-farms at the end of the day the US Government will generally prevail. Typically they are over the top in support of environmental concerns although with the Trump Presidency one can see the pendulum swinging the other direction for a period of time.

    Editor’s Note: Port O Call is an open forum. The article under discussion was written by a community member–not Port O Call. Port O Call welcomes opinions that differ with published articles. A free exchange of ideas contributes to better decision-making. Port O Call professes no expertise on salmon raising.

    1. Alan Clark

      Richard – You are correct that the federal and most state governments are pro-aquaculture and for the most part so am I. Net-pens, in areas where you are trying to restore wild salmonids don’t make a lot of sense due to disease transmission between wild and farmed salmon, fish lice problems, and escapees competing for food and nesting sites. But aquaculture involving shellfish, algae culture, and fish (lower on the food chain than salmon) can be both profitable for local communities and mostly sustainable.
      As to Google, I agree that we all need to look critically at the validity of the research we are citing.

  5. Tyler

    Of course, it isn’t as if there are no alternatives to what is being proposed.

    It isn’t about “killing fish farm jobs”, or not being concerned about feeding the growing human populations. It is about what is being proposed, and the anticipated impacts.

    Prior to the passing of the Clean Water Act by the Nixon Administration, the nation’s waters were being polluted with little effective controls. Of course it was cheaper to dump wastes into public waters with little or no treatment. But the damage to the waters and environment became so obvious that laws were passed, despite the claims from polluters that it would cost jobs.

    One of the requirements was that every sewage treatment facility in the nation be upgraded to a minimum standard, removing much of the nutrient load that otherwise was contaminating local waters.

    Locally, Port Angeles has recently spent many tens of millions of dollars to address the impacts of sewage overflows.

    Net pen salmon farms do not attempt to treat the wastes. They can produce the equivalent wastes of a town of 10,000 people. Half the population of Port Angeles.

    Land based fish farms are in operation, now. In Florida, a 100 acre facility produces highly prized caviar, raising Beluga Sturgeon which are threatened with extinction in the wild. Land based, “closed loop” and “recirculating aquaculture” are different terms for economically proven, non polluting fish farming operations.

    Not controlling the pollution we create is “cheaper” in the immediate terms.

    This is the primary reason some industrial fish farming operations still try to get open water net pen operations approved. It is cheaper just let the wastes pile up on the bottom of the sites, than spend the money they rest of us do, to be responsible for the wastes we create.

    1. Alan Clark

      One of the Washington tribes is looking at closed-system operations for raising salmon, so you’re right there are alternatives to net-pens in the ocean. A closed-system salmon raising operation has also started up in Scotland. I’m not sure if it was successful. UC Davis researchers are looking at raising White Sturgeon for aquaculture and restoring wild populations, so the technology does exist to do this right.

  6. Ron

    Fish shit in the ocean. Like bears in the woods. It’s completely different than Victoria dumping human fecal matter.
    Editor’s Note: No one denies fish defecate in the ocean. Normally they move about in the ocean and deposit it over a wide area. Net pens allow the waste to accumulate in one place–under the pens.

    1. Tyler

      Yes Ron, and your reference to large municipal discharges is more apt than you might realize.

      Do you think the impacts to the environment of a sole camper in the woods, burying their poop in the brush, is the same as a city of 300,000 discharging all their waste out of one pipe? You want to live next to the discharge point of that pipe?

      As the editor informs, wild fish swimming around are a bit like that sole camper out in the woods. They don’t poop in one spot year after year, along with tens of thousands of others. Migrating salmon can swim more than 50 miles a day.

      The sewage treatment plant in Port Angeles receives about 1.8 million gallons a day of actual sewage. If it weren’t treated and discharged, it would make a pretty large polluted pile, pretty quickly.

      Untreated accumulated sewage is considered a bad thing pretty much everywhere. If the waste under the pens was easy for every one to see and smell, would it still be okay?

  7. Ronny

    Hey-Zeus Christo!

    Are you serious. You’re talking about 1970-80 work experience, Google quality research, Nixon Administration and othe ancient news. If you want to live under the laws of CA, OR or AK why not move there?

    Moving the pens out of the harbor will increase the dispersion of any accumulation.

    1. Tyler

      Really? “… ancient news.”? Are you so isolated from the realities of today, that you think pollution control is not the major focus of the world, now?

      “Moving the pens out of the harbor will increase the dispersion of any accumulation.” You post this with any kind of sincerity? You expect any reasonable person to think that is some kind of solution?

      Oh, yes. Back to “ancient news”, otherwise known as “been there, done that”. Way back in the ancient times of the 1950s and 1960s, polluting industries raised their smokestacks and extended their discharge outfall pipes, convincing regulators that “The solution to pollution is dilution”. That didn’t stop ANY of the pollution. The air and waters still got dirtier.

      This is what Victoria did decades ago. (You know, in “ancient” times). They extended their outfall pipes so that the “white trout” did not continue to wash up on the beaches of the San Juan Islands, and surrounding areas.

      But gee-whiz-golly! Guess what happened? The sewage still contaminated the local waters, and a large area around Victoria was closed off to fishing because so much of the area (square miles) was contaminated. Still is.

      You say: “you want to live under the laws of CA, OR or AK why not move there?” Another way of looking this is the fact that these neighboring states have reviewed the science, and outlawed the construction of open water net pens for a GOOD REASON! You know? Like when the local authorities issue a burn ban when conditions are so dry and hazardous. There is a GOOD REASON for their laws.

      Most reasonable people know the world has been polluted by human activities to the point where lots of species are now going extinct. The very fish we are talking about, salmon, are in such decline the State spends millions trying to keep the fishery going. Even with those very many millions being spent, the salmon fisheries in the area are closed, and in crisis.

      The evidence is clear.


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