Group to Sue After Farmed Salmon Spill Into Puget Sound

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The spill of thousands of Atlantic salmon at a Cooke Aquaculture farm in Washington state poses no concerns for the company's operations in Nova Scotia, the province's aquaculture minister said Thursday.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is warning anglers that non-native Atlantic salmon may be heading to Alaska.

"This disaster could have devastating effects and could potentially decimate this year's run of Chinook salmon", said Merle Jefferson, natural resource director for the Lummi Nation.

As concern about the release of more than 300,000 farmed Atlantic salmon into the Puget Sound grows, at least one local scientist is tempering emotions. They worry about water pollution from fish feed and the potential for farmed fish to spread of diseases and parasites to wild fish.

Aboard the fishing vessel Marathon, Nathan Cultee, right, and Nicholas Cooke, left, unload 16 farm-raised Atlantic salmon into a container after a day of fishing on Tuesday in Bellingham, Wash.

The Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife has encouraged the public to come catch as numerous fish as they want. "Anglers also must stop fishing for Atlantic salmon once they've caught their daily limit of Pacific salmon in marine waters or their daily limit of trout or Pacific salmon in freshwater".

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials blamed the structure failure on high tides caused by the eclipse - but tidal waters had been higher in July.

However, experts at an environmental group that had previously protested the farm said the facility has had issues in the past. Most died off within a year, and none were shown to mate with native salmon. Cooke officials initially said 4,000 to 5,000 fish escaped, but later admitted the total could be much higher.

"We're hoping to track how many Atlantic salmon have been recovered by sport anglers and how far those fish have dispersed", said Ron Warren, head of WDFW's fish program.

"It appears that many fish are still contained within the nets".

The company said it has a detailed fish escape and recapture plan, but did not give specific details. "This isn't the first time we've seen large escapes like this".

"These are open net pens". Onlookers said it looked like hurricane debris.

"The aquaculture industry, with numerous sites blocking critical wild salmon migratory paths, has been definitively linked to the decline of salmon stocks worldwide and is correlated with increased levels of sea-lice, Piscine Reo-Virus (PRV) and Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation (HSMI) disease in B.C". A fish farm off Cypress Island collapsed August 19, releasing thousands of the non-native fish into the Salish Sea. All that harms Pacific salmon and the waters of Washington. The association said an annual average of fewer than 50 fish have escaped from B.C. farms over the last five years.

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