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Environment Farm News

Remember back in August when the moon passed in front of the sun and hundreds of thousands of salmon escaped from a pen near Cypress Island, Washington? At the time, Cooke Aquaculture, the farming operation that lost the fish, blamed the jailbreak on strong tides caused by the eclipse. Environmental groups and neighbors were quick to cast doubt on that theory, saying the pen’s collapse was more likely due to inadequate maintenance. Since then, the story has refused to die—unlike the escaped Atlantic salmon, which weren’t really equipped for a life in the Pacific Ocean. And now the Washington Department of Ecology has released its report on the event. Spoiler alert: Cooke Aquaculture’s eclipse defense didn’t hold water.

Cooke will be fined $330,000 for poor net cleaning, failure to follow protocol, and insufficient attention to engineering, The North Coast News reports. Cooke called the report “unfair and inaccurate.”

It’s an industry that has faced controversy in recent months as advocates have publicly spoken out against its potential environmental impact.

Summer’s salmon scuffle cast a spotlight on fish farming in Washington. It’s an industry that has faced controversy in recent months as advocates have publicly spoken out against its potential environmental impact and the threat farmed fish pose to wild populations through sea lice and contagious disease. A video of bloody effluent streaming from a salmon processing plant into the ocean near Vancouver fanned the flames in November, and Washington Governor Jay Inslee recently issued a moratorium on new net-pen operations in the state.

Meanwhile, a Norwegian company is planning to build a giant aquaculture farm in Belfast, Maine, the Portland Press Herald reports. It’s expected to produce 66 million pounds of fish annually, and its operations will run on land. That means the salmon will be grown in tanks, far away from wild ocean populations. The method has been rated “Best Choice” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.

H. Claire Brown

Claire Brown is a staff writer for The New Food Economy focusing on food policy and the environment. Her reporting has won awards from the Newswomen’s Club of New York and the New York Press Club. She is based in Brooklyn. She can be reached via email at claire.brown@newfoodeconomy.org or on Twitter at @hclaire_brown.

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