On August 19, 2017, one of Cooke Aquaculture’s largest facilities in Washington—a ten-cage net pen off Cypress Island—collapsed, resulting in the release of 243,000 to 263,000 non-native Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound. Cooke Aquaculture is the largest farmed-salmon producer in North America, and at the time operated eight net pen facilities in Washington. A multi-agency investigation ensued. In January 2018, Ecology issued Cooke a $332,000 penalty for water quality permit violations related to the Cypress Island collapse.
Cooke originally appealed the penalty to the Pollution Control Hearings Board. On Monday, April 29 Ecology announced the parties had reached a settlement. Under the terms of the settlement:
- Cooke will pay the full $332,000 penalty.
- Eighty percent ($265,600) of the penalty will go to a regional salmon enhancement or habitat restoration project.
- Twenty percent ($66,400) of the penalty will go to Ecology’s Coastal Protection Fund, which supports grants to locally sponsored projects that restore or enhance the natural environment.
While the penalty dispute is now resolved, the direct and indirect aftermath of the Cypress Island collapse is not. Cooke faces uncertainty regarding pending permit renewal applications, an undecided Clean Water Act citizen suit resulting from the collapse set for trial in December 2019, and a statutory mandate to phase out Atlantic salmon farming in Washington by 2022.