Cooke Aquaculture Hope Island farm

Cooke Aquaculture operates a floating marine fish farm called a net pen near Hope Island in Skagit County. It is one of four net pen facilities where the company proposes switching from growing Atlantic salmon to native steelhead.

The state Department of Ecology is accepting comments on a draft permit that would allow Cooke Aquaculture to raise steelhead trout in four net pens in Puget Sound, including one near Hope Island in Skagit County.

An online hearing Oct. 14 will allow the public an opportunity to learn about and comment on the draft water quality permit. Comment will be taken through Oct. 26.

All documents and hearing information can be found at ecology.wa.gov/NetPenPermit, and comments can be submitted online.

Cooke Aquaculture is going through a multi-agency permitting process to change the kind of fish it raises from non-native Atlantic salmon to native steelhead.

The move has been approved by the state Department of Fish & Wildlife, and Cooke Aquaculture is now focused on getting Ecology approval.

Ecology has determined switching species would not change potential impacts on water quality. However, the agency is strengthening regulations in the draft permits to ensure water quality is protected.

Following the comment period, Ecology will review public feedback and determine if further modifications to the permit are needed.

Cooke Aquaculture wants to raise all-female, lab-sterilized steelhead instead of Atlantic salmon, which the state is phasing out by 2022 in response to the 2017 collapse of one of Cooke’s net farms near Cypress Island in Skagit County.

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