News: Blog

Take Necessary Steps to Save Our Salmon

I. Long Live the Kings joins other state, federal and tribal leaders supporting a moratorium on new net pens in Puget Sound. With the recent major escapement of Atlantic Salmon from Cooke Aquaculture’s net pens near Cypress Island, our community must seriously evaluate whether the potential economic benefits of rearing Atlantic Salmon in Puget Sound net pens are outweighed by the risks to our fisheries, our southern resident killer whales, and our legacy of wild salmon.

Damaged Net Pens
Damaged net pens near Cypress Island, Image from the Seattle Times.

These risks include amplifying salmon diseases and parasites in native fish populations and polluting surrounding waters.  When Atlantic salmon escape, there is potential competition with and displacement of native fish as well as the problem of incidental catch as unwanted non-native salmon are targeted and removed.  All of these risks clearly increase with numbers and geographic distribution of open net pen operations in our environment.

II. Long Live the Kings further calls for more robust oversight by state and federal agencies of existing net pen operations.  Additional resources will be required to adequately assure the public that risks are being minimized, and these resources should not simply be shifted from other critical salmon management and restoration activities.

State and federal permitting agencies must hold Cooke Aquaculture accountable for damage and potential damage resulting from this incident.  The permitting agencies must strengthen permit conditions and more closely monitor net pens to ensure that permit conditions are adhered to by all operators. If not, permits should be terminated.

We encourage state and federal agencies, tribes, and private individuals to actively monitor the impact of this release of Atlantic salmon on marine and freshwater environments in the Salish Sea.  Activities to recapture or monitor Atlantic salmon must be conducted within current fishing regulations and only in areas currently open to salt and freshwater fishing. In responding to the release of a non-native species, we must take care not to multiply threats to the same native salmon populations we’re trying to save.

Atlantic Salmon
Picture of Atlantic salmon for identification. Notice the spots on the gills. Image courtesy of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

III. Long Live the Kings salutes our many partners and the host of NGO’s and state, tribal and federal agency personnel who, like us, are working to advance salmonid science, improve management, and implement solutions to the major impacts on our salmon populations. The general public has also proven a powerful voice in creating momentum to address the known risks posed by net pens.

Atlantic Salmon catch
Angler cleaning up escaped Atlantic salmon. Photo taken by Heidi Sachs.

The question still remains whether addressing net pens will be enough to save our salmon. Our answer is no, it will not be enough.  LLTK and other organizations need the public’s ardent and passionate support to help save this Pacific Northwest icon. The hurdles are significant – many stocks are dangerously depleted – and our work to recover wild salmon clearly is incomplete.

Nevertheless, LLTK’s commitment is unwavering and real progress is being made. By tirelessly working alongside other passionate partners to improve harvest and hatchery management, address habitat loss, overcome migration barriers, avoid and deal with disease and contaminant challenges, and understand the impact of climate change on salt and freshwater environments and food resources our native salmon rely on, we’re moving the needle on recovery of this magical fish.

IV. Our Northwest regional identity cannot be defined without salmon. These fish have nourished, inspired, and captivated us all for eons.  It is a hallmark of our community with its remarkable endurance, spiritual influence, and economic impact.  We at Long Live the Kings believe that our region can absorb a growing human population, sustain a thriving environment and economy, and uphold strong and vibrant salmon and steelhead runs.

We invite you to join us.

lltk.org

Other resources: 

WDFW resources on Atlantic salmon.

Press release from Senator Patty Murray.

A scientific perspective on the Atlantic salmon release by Joe Gaydos.

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