Fish pen heading for dry storage

Barbara Lechner captured this photo of what she called traffic in Burrows Strait Saturday morning. The fish pen, owned by Cooke Aquaculture, is being moved from Cypress Island for land storage.

Floating in the Guemes Channel, just off the shore along Oakes Street, a newly arrived fish pen had some residents scratching their heads last week.

A spokesperson from Cooke Aquaculture told the American that the fish pen was being moved from Cypress Island for land storage.

Meanwhile, Cooke Aquaculture is in the process of getting water quality permits for farming steelhead in Skagit Bay near Hope Island. Public comment on the permits closed at the end of October.

The Washington Department Fish and Wildlife in January approved the company’s plan to farm infertile, native steelhead. Three other pens in Rich Passage in Kitsap County are also planning to farm steelhead. Its aquatic lease with the state expires in 2024.

In 2017, a fish pen at Cypress Island owned by Cooke Aquaculture collapsed and released over 250,000 Atlantic salmon, a nonnative species, into the Puget Sound, putting endangered native salmon at risk. A phased ban on the farming of nonnative fish in Washington was passed in 2018 by the Legislature. It will go into effect in 2022.

Cooke Aquaculture paid a $332,000 fine last spring for the incident, with the majority of the money going to the Pressentin Park Habitat Restoration Project, to restore a side channel and plant native plants. The remaining $66,400 went to the Coastal Protection Fund, which provides grants for improving water quality, land protection and restoration.

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