The image on the right shows a damaged Cooke Aquaculture net pen facility after the release of thousands of farmed Atlantic salmon in Washington. Photo: Our Sound, Our Salmon
Environment | National

Lummi Nation declares emergency after farmed salmon spill into treaty waters

The Lummi Nation declared a state of emergency on Thursday after thousands of farmed salmon spilled into tribal treaty waters in Washington.

Tribal fishermen are trying to catch as many of the Atlantic salmon as possible. The goal is to protect native fish species from being eaten or exposed to diseases, Chairman Timothy Ballew II said.

“The tribe has not received confirmation that the Atlantic salmon spill has been contained, so we have to assume that the invasive fish continues to spill into these waters, putting the spawning grounds for native salmon species at risk,” Ballew said in a press release.

The fish came from a fish farm operated by Cooke Aquaculture in the Deepwater Bay off of Cypress Island. In a statement on Monday, the company said "several thousand Atlantic salmon" escaped from holding pens but a spokesperson subsequently told The Seattle Times that the figure may be far higher.

The state is also encouraging people to catch as many of the fish as possible. As the name implies, the farmed Atlantic salmon are not native to the Pacific Ocean.

“The Atlantic salmon bring with them pollution, virus and parasite amplification, and all that harms Pacific salmon and our waters of Washington,” Kurt Beardslee, the director of the Wild Fish Conservancy Northwest, told KUOW.

Before and after. The left is an image of the Cypress Island net pens prior to this weekend. The right is an aerial shot...

Posted by Our Sound, Our Salmon on Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Our Sound, Our Salmon on Facebook: Before and after photos of farmed salmon disaster in Washington

Beardslee's organization is part of the Our Sound, Our Salmon coalition, which opposes the use of net pens like the ones at Aquaculture. The group is holding a flotilla on September 16 to draw more attention to the issue.

Cooke Aquaculture initially tied the spill, which occurred on Saturday, to "exceptionally high tides" coinciding with Monday's solar eclipse. Experts told KUOW and The Times that tides were actually lower than normal on Saturday.

Read More on the Story:
Lummi Nation declares state of emergency after salmon spill (KING 5 August 24, 2017)
Lummi tribe declares state of emergency over Atlantic salmon spill (The Bellinghamd Herald August 24, 2017)
Lummi Tribe, wild fish advocates call fish spill ‘disaster’ (KGMI News August 24, 2017)
Farmed salmon ‘heading to every river in Puget Sound’ (The Seattle Times August 24, 2017)
Collapse at salmon farm renews debate about fish farming (The Associated Press August 24, 2017)
Officials try to blame eclipse, tides for Atlantic salmon spill in Puget Sound (KUOW August 22, 2017)