OLYMPIA – Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, testified on his proposal to permanently ban commercial net pens used for fish farming in Washington state during Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee.

“The crisis we face due to the escape of hundreds of thousands of invasive Atlantic salmon from the Cooke Aquaculture net pen failure last summer is alarming,” said Ranker. “However, we must realize that in addition to the potential for these disasters, the day-to-day impact of invasive aquaculture fish in our waters is even more dramatic. Feces, disease, loose food pellets or lice — this type of aquaculture could have serious impacts on our already threatened Salish Sea.”

Under SB 6086, the state would no longer authorize new leases, use authorizations, or permit any activity involving invasive species of marine finfish aquaculture.

“We are currently subsidizing an industry that is using our public marine waters for profit,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Kitsap County and a co-sponsor of the bill. “If we care about the viability of wild salmon, we must get serious about protecting our native species and responsibly managing Puget Sound based on scientific standards until these operations are phased out.”

Additionally, the departments of Ecology, Fish & Wildlife and Natural Resources must revise guidance on net pen operations and include scientific information that has emerged since the existing state guidance was developed nearly 30 years ago.

“The risks of these invasive species with vaccines, antibiotics and color dye have been with us for too long,” said Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Edmonds and a co-sponsor of the bill. “If we want to make any return on the investments in projects to save native fish, we need to remove competitive, invasive species from wild fish habitat.”

Since the escapement, nearly 105,000 of the fish remain unaccounted for. In December 2017, state commissioner of public lands Hilary Franz terminated Cooke Aquaculture Pacific’s lease for its Atlantic salmon net-pen farm in Port Angeles and ordered it shut down and removed. Cooke Aquaculture Pacific has filed a lawsuit seeking to continue running its Atlantic salmon farm in Port Angeles.