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caption: A wild Pacific salmon, left, is shown next to a farm-raised Atlantic salmon, right, on Tuesday, August 22, 2017, at Home Port Seafood in Bellingham. The farm-raised Atlantic salmon was caught after a large spill of fish at Cooke Aquaculture fish farm near Cyrpess Island.
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A wild Pacific salmon, left, is shown next to a farm-raised Atlantic salmon, right, on Tuesday, August 22, 2017, at Home Port Seafood in Bellingham. The farm-raised Atlantic salmon was caught after a large spill of fish at Cooke Aquaculture fish farm near Cyrpess Island.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Fish farming banned in Washington waters by executive order


Washington's Commissioner of Public Lands has issued an executive order that bans fish farming in Washington waters.

Many coastal tribes, and environmentalists, are celebrating the move.

"This is a critical step to support our waters, our fishermen and women, our tribes and our native salmon that we are so ferociously trying to save and have so little time to do so," said Commissioner Hilary Franz as she announced Friday that net pen aquaculture is over in Washington.

"Salmon are in danger of going extinct, the way of life that supports numerous coast Salish tribes and our entire Northwest culture hangs in the balance."

The executive order goes a step further than last week's news that DNR would not renew any fish farm leases under its purview.

Franz says this is about freeing Washington waters from cages. Net pens can hold hundreds of thousands of farmed, non-native fish. In 2017, one such pen broke open, spilling Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound, leading to years of litigation. It spurred tribal concerns for native salmon and their food stock, among other risks of non-native fish inhabiting local waters.

Other forms of aquatic farming are still welcome in Washington waters, such as shellfish. Tribal fisheries also maintain the right to use aquatic net pens for fin fish.