BI council favors public access over fish pens

  • Monday, October 19, 2020 10:50am
  • News

The Bainbridge City Council wants the state to take over the lease in 2022 of aquatic lands that are now used for net pen fin fish aquaculture.

Cooke Aquaculture Pacific, LLC, has operated the fish farm on 57 acres at Rich Passage near Fort Ward Park for about 32 years.

The City Council this week approved a resolution, initiated by Councilmember Christy Carr, declaring its support for the Wild Fish Conservancy’s proposal to the state Department of Natural Resources

The conservancy is seeking to restore these aquatic lands to their natural state and restore full access to the public.

The resolution says the impacts and risks of such aquaculture operations are well-documented and include pollution of dangerous amounts of untreated waste, which are harmful to all types of wildlife and sealife, including orca whales.

The resolution goes on to say this particular aquaculture site has a history of permit violations and mismanagement. It adds that state law says net pen aquaculture is no longer a water-dependent use, based on advances in upland and indoor fin fish facilities, and that those can safely produce local, affordable seafood.

It says DNR is required by state law to manage such lands to ensure environmental protection, public use and to foster water-dependent uses.

The resolution ends saying Cooke plans to apply for a new lease to farm stealhead salmon in the existing net pens. It encourages Hillary Franz, state commissioner of Public Lands, to deny that request and urges her to lease the land to the “Taking Back Our Sound” restoration project.

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