(Olympia, Washington) Calling the newly passed HB 2957—a ban on Atlantic salmon aquaculture in state waters—"Ill-conceived and politically motivated rather than based on the best available science,” the Washington Fish Growers Association (WFGA) is calling on Governor Jay Inslee to veto the bill this week.

“We are appealing to Governor Inslee, a strong believer in science, to use his veto powers to put this nonsensical, punitive legislation to rest,” said Dan Swecker, Executive Director of WFGA.

“We appreciate the outpouring of support for our industry by the many fisheries scientists who set the record straight with real facts refuting the myths underlying the legislation,” Swecker said. “We are especially grateful to the 16 Senators who cast a ‘no’ vote and who delivered impassioned speeches on the Senate floor arguing against such a drastic measure to ban an entire farming sector and put hundreds of rural workers out of jobs.”

Swecker noted that in the final days leading up to the floor debate and vote, WFGA received “unprecedented support from many of the world’s leading fisheries scientists, expressing alarm over a legislative measure that is founded on the baseless fear that Atlantic salmon, when and if they escape, could interbreed with Pacific stocks or colonize our rivers. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Swecker said.

“The fact is that the science from decades of peer-reviewed research does not support the theory that Atlantic salmon that escape from net pens will colonize our rivers and/or interbreed with native stocks. Indeed, we presented compelling evidence in the legislative committee hearings to the contrary from leading fisheries scientists whose careers included leadership positions at the National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, Battelle-PNNL, the Northwest and Alaska Fisheries Science Center, and the NOAA research laboratory at Manchester, Washington,” Swecker said.

“This science was ignored by the legislature, and the ill-conceived HB 2957 is the result.”

Swecker, a former State Senator said, “We implore Governor Inslee to veto this bill, which has already damaged our reputation as a place to do business and will result in massive consequences to our state’s rural economy. Does the Governor want to be known for holding a Canadian company to a different standard than that which his predecessors applied to US-owned companies who actually experienced larger fish escapes in the past?” he asked.

If signed into law, the Atlantic salmon ban could trigger a section of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), under which the Canadian company, Cooke Aquaculture, could be entitled to over $75 million dollars in damages from lost profits, costs, and investments in this state.

Swecker expressed complete dismay at the Senate’s failure to pass a compromise amendment that would allay the fears of those concerned over escapes by requiring aquaculture operators who choose to raise Atlantics to adopt new technology that results in using only single-sex fish in grow-out pens.

“What seems to have been misunderstood by those Senators who voted in favor of the ban, is that worldwide, aquaculture is an industry that has undergone profound change over the past 25 years, thanks to evolving and emerging technology, enhanced veterinary practices, increased regulation and significant improvements in feed and feed conversion,” according to Swecker.

“To be competitive in the global marketplace, today’s aquaculture producer must meet stringent standards in all aspects of the value chain, from egg to smolt to juvenile to adult salmon. These standards, set by the marketplace, are independently audited and include product quality, sustainable feed, environmental stewardship, fair labor, and strict animal welfare. Such standards are independently monitored and certified by globally respected certifying bodies. The process of being certified is also a process of continuous improvement, and aquaculture is no exception,” Swecker pointed out.

WFGA represents Washington’s multi-million dollar finfish industry, whose members represent feed suppliers; technology businesses; manufacturers of sonar equipment and underwater cameras and acoustic sensors; egg producers; net system manufacturers; transportation and distribution companies; vaccine manufacturers; fish health specialists; and seafood processors from around the state. In addition to the 180 direct jobs employed through Atlantic salmon farming in Washington state, there are another 424 jobs indirectly supported from the sector which stand to be lost should Governor Inslee sign HB 2957.

For more information, contact:

Dan Swecker, Executive Director