Escaped salmon, a fishing bounty, and an eclipse. This story has a bit of everything.
Recently, fish escaped from a net holding 305,000 at the Cooke Aquaculture fish farm near Cypress Island in Washington. As reported by The New Tribune, this happened as a result of strong tides caused by the eclipse. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has declared an open season on the escaped Atlantic salmon, putting no limits on sizes or catch rates on the fish.
Many of the fish are still in the pen and the exact number of fish that escaped the nets is unknown. Anchor lines to the pens broke and tipped walkways made it impossible to take care of the fish spill.
In a statement from The New Tribune, Cooke released a statement saying, ““exceptionally high tides and currents coinciding with this week’s solar eclipse” caused the damage. Cooke estimates several thousand salmon escaped following “structural failure” of a net pen.
Tribal Fishery Managers in the area disagree with the statement. In a statement to Crosscut Casey Ruff, the management director of the Skagit River System said, “I don’t understand why they claim the big tidal exchange is to blame since we’ve recently had bigger tidal exchanges. If that was the case then this failure should’ve happened earlier.”
This claim is even more alarming as Cooke Aquaculture is planning on placing another net-pen farm in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The salmon farms could have negative impacts on the existing wild salmon populations. The escaped salmon being an even larger threat to the ecosystem. The escaped Atlantics weigh on average 10 lbs and are more than capable of preying on the native fry. The risk of spreading disease is on an already strained fish population is also a pain point.