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.
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: https://www.oursound-oursalmon.org/ – 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
firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 565-2616
Offices at 223 E. 4th St., Suite 5, Port Angeles, WA 98362