Lawmakers from the Washington State Senate passed House Bill 2957, which bans Atlantic salmon net-pen farming in Washington by the year 2025. The bill was passed 31-16 after a long fight on the Senate floor.
Opponents of the bill attached amendments in an effort to send it back to the House for further review and delay the vote. Ultimately this strategy was unsuccessful, with proponents of the ban pushing the bill through.
The practice of farming Atlantic salmon in the Pacific Northwest is controversial, and the ban no less so. The main sponsor of the bill was State Senator Kevin Ranker-D, who believes the ban will protect native salmon species, while opponents of the ban say that it will destroy local jobs and that Atlantic salmon do not pose a threat to native species.
The ban comes after a net-pen run by Cooke Aquaculture Pacific collapsed in August 2017, releasing 250,000 non-native salmon species. Cooke Aquaculture Pacific was the main opponent of the bill. State Senator Mark Schoeslar-R stated that he thought it was wrong for the state to pass a ban that would cost jobs; Cooke Aquaculture Pacific employs 600 people in the state.
Members of the scientific community had differing opinions on the ban; some thought that it was the right choice, while some former NOAA scientists wrote an open letter outlining their objections and urging the ban not to be passed. Cooke has stated that they plan to sue the State of Washington for $76 million under the North American Free Trade Agreement to recover their investment.