Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 15, 2022


Sophia Ressler, (206) 399-4004,

Historic Announcement Ends Net Pen Fish Farms in Washington

SEATTLE— In an announcement late Monday night, the Washington Department of Natural Resources revealed it would not be renewing any of Cooke Aquaculture’s permits for in-water fish net pens in Washington state.

Earlier this month all of Cooke’s existing net pen leases, which were the only ones in Washington, expired after more than a decade of operations. The global seafood corporation was required to apply for new state permits. Without those permits, net pen aquaculture will cease in state waters.

“Getting rid of these harmful net pens in Washington’s waters is a monumental win for our fragile coastal ecosystem,” said Sophia Ressler, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Without these environmentally disastrous facilities we’ll have cleaner water and better protected salmon populations, and we can restore Tribal access to the areas where these facilities were operating.”

The department is giving Cooke until Dec. 14 to harvest the remaining fish and remove the facilities and the debris associated with them from Puget Sound. Washington will now join the rest of the U.S. Pacific Coast and British Columbia in banning these facilities in open water.

Cooke is known in Washington state for the devastating 2017 net pen failure at its Cypress Island facility, which released more than 260,000 non-native Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound, threatening native salmonids with disease, competition for food and the risk of inbreeding.

In response to this disaster, the state legislature banned farming of non-native fish in state waters. This decision still allowed Cooke to farm native fish. This week’s announcement by the department will halt all operations.

In 2020 the Center and conservation allies challenged a new permit allowing Cooke to rear domesticated steelhead in Puget Sound net pens. The court later granted the permit to Cooke, despite the cursory environmental analysis that occurred.

“This victory is the result of a long fight by so many people, and it will have profound benefits for endangered orcas, salmonids and the general health of Puget Sound,” said Ressler. “I couldn’t be happier that the department has listened to Washington state residents and decided this is no longer an industry we can risk supporting.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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