Friday, May 27, 2016

Water’s Edge: Planning for salmon farms

Science and the law leads the way in regulating salmon net pens

By Cedar Bouta, shoreline environmental planner

Alevin (newly hatched salmon) with yolk sac.
Photo: PNW Salmon Center.
Washingtonians are passionate about our salmon. We give smoked salmon as presents and take visitors to the Pike Place Market for salmon tossing. We also use images of them on beer, t-shirts and other products. In addition, native peoples harvest and consume wild salmon as an important part of their cultures.

Our conversations about wild versus farmed salmon are passionate too.

That’s why the University of Washington’s Northwest Environmental Forum sponsored a March 22-23 gathering that brought together about 65 stakeholders with differing perspectives about commercial salmon farming in Washington. The forum was a success in bringing together parties who – although on opposite sides of lawsuits or with differing points of view – were willing to come, learn and listen.

The forum highlighted:

  • The stakeholders’ shared commitment to a healthy marine environment, recovery of native salmon, and local jobs.
  • A growing demand for seafood and the health benefits of eating more salmon.
  • The complex oversight provided by local, state and federal permits and authorizations for commercial fish farms.
  • A need for more sharing of science and other information about Washington’s existing fish farms.

Commercial salmon net pens near Bainbridge Island, Washington. 

The state of salmon in Washington

Salmon are part of our state’s legacy. Washington has a coordinated, scientifically-rigorous recovery plan spearheaded by the Puget Sound Partnership to ensure wild salmon are part of Washington’s future. The plan contains programs and projects designed to restore native salmon runs and protect endangered and threatened stocks.

Many of the stakeholders represented at the March net pen forum have contributed to salmon recovery in Puget Sound and are working towards addressing urban runoff and other threats.

Feeding a seafood-hungry world

As committed as we are to our native salmon, forum participants learned that our hunger for seafood is growing and imported, farmed salmon is filling the gap. During the years 2000-2004, Americans consumed an average of about 284,000 metric tons (more than 617 million pounds) of salmon annually, of which approximately:

One-third of salmon consumed was wild and two-thirds was farmed.
One-third was domestic production (farmed and wild) and two-thirds was imported.

From January 2015 through March 2016, over 27 million pounds of fresh and frozen Atlantic salmon were imported from other countries through the Port of Seattle. This was almost twice as much as the annual production of commercial salmon farms in Washington.

Forum participants also learned that salmon aquaculture is one of the most resource-efficient sources of ways to produce protein.

Science leads the way, learning more about net pens

Ecology regulates net pen operations, like this one in
Port Angeles, through water quality permits
and shoreline master programs.
We have information describing our current approach to shoreline planning and commercial salmon net pens on our website. We also have video of scientific presentations and an expert panel discussing net pen operations, fish health, escapement, genetics, water quality and management tools.

Ecology will continue to let science and the law lead the way – adapting our findings and requirements as needed. Working together, we and other stakeholders can ensure commercial net pens do not put wild salmon recovery at risk.

Learn more about Ecology’s role
with net pens on our website.


Joel Natterstad said...

Interesting how you neglected to mention the detrimental impacts of net pen farming. It's almost like you are encouraging it. I hope the readers educate themselves about the Chilean dieoffs, the lice outbreak in Norway and how it is more important to restore access to spawning habitat that is blocked by dams than spreading diseases to wild fish with farming hybrid salmon. But I gather you're more of a make it worse to make a buck oriented group. #Slowfish

Wild Game Fish Conservation International said...

It's unimaginable that Washington state would consider ocean-based salmon feedlots as a viable business given all the problems around planet earth with this filthy industry. Going forward with increasing Washington's Atlantic salmon is a slap in the face to those striving to restore Salish Sea orcas and wild salmon.