Stand up for Wild Salmon,
Orcas and Public Waters
Photo courtesy of Wild Fish Conservancy
Industrial net-pen salmon farms are pushing endangered wild salmon—and the dwindling southern resident killer whales that depend on them—closer to extinction. We’re working with Wild Fish Conservancy to kick commercial net pens out of Puget Sound for good—and you can help. (See petition link below.) The plan? Lease the net-pen locations out from under Cooke Aquaculture, which owns the salmon farms in Puget Sound, evict them and restore the habitat.
Take Back The Soundwith special musical guest Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie
Taking Back Puget Sound
Photo by Ben Moon
What is a net-pen salmon farm?
Net-pen salmon farms are marine feedlots where large numbers of domesticated food fish are raised for profit. The fish are concentrated in nets suspended from structures anchored to the seafloor, where they are fed commercial food pellets to encourage rapid growth. Compared to land-based feedlots, net pens can operate at relatively low cost because the owners rely on public waters to dispose of waste and other pollutants.
Parasites and Disease
Like any feedlot system, the massive concentration of livestock—in this case, salmon—creates ideal breeding grounds for parasites, viruses and other pathogens. Sea lice infestations not only impact the captive salmon, but spread to migrating wild salmon with devastating effects. When viruses and disease outbreaks occur in the net pens, they proliferate quickly, often exposing wild fish in the surrounding waters.
In addition to the tons of fecal waste that net pens generate every year, operators need to employ large quantities of pesticides, antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals to keep their fish alive. These chemicals pass freely through the net pens into surrounding waters, impacting wild salmon and other marine life. At some facilities, thousands of gallons of processing waste—mostly blood, often carrying parasites and viruses—are piped directly into local waters for disposal.
Net-pen salmon farms have a long history of catastrophic failure, resulting in large-scale escape of non-native salmon. Most recently, Cooke Aquaculture’s Cypress Island facility in northern Puget Sound imploded in 2017, allowing more than 260,000 non-native Atlantic salmon to escape. These invasive species spread for hundreds of miles, and were later found to be carrying a highly contagious fish virus.
As state and federal agencies spend tens of millions of public dollars every year to protect endangered wild salmon and southern resident killer whales, net pen salmon farms, which have been shown to further endanger these same species, continue operations to generate profits for privately held, multinational corporations.
Food For Thought
Net-pen farmed salmon are fed pellets made by harvesting large quantities of forage fish, which deprives wild salmon of critical food sources. The food pellets often contain chemicals and pharmaceuticals to keep fish alive in crowded feedlot conditions, and dyes, without which the flesh of pen-raised salmon is an unappealing grayish white color.