Department of Ecology News Release - January 30, 2018

Ecology fines Cooke $332,000 for net pen collapse

Negligence and poor maintenance cause Atlantic salmon incident


Today, the Washington Department of Ecology penalized Cooke Aquaculture Pacific (Cooke) $332,000 for the negligent release of Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound. Cooke violated their water quality permit leading up to, and during, the net pen collapse near Cypress Island in August 2017.

“This investigation confirms Cooke Aquaculture was negligent in operating its net pen,” said Ecology Director Maia Bellon. “What’s even worse is that Cooke absolutely could have – and should have – prevented this incident.”

Specifically, Cooke is fined for violating the following conditions of their water quality permit:

  • Poor net cleaning and maintenance
  • Failing to follow required protocol for repairs
  • Insufficient attention to engineering

The net pen structure suffered damage in late July 2017, but Cooke grossly underrepresented the severity of that event to Ecology and other regulatory agencies. Shortcut repairs were then made without professional engineering review and failed.

Poor maintenance led to excessive buildup of mussels, seaweed, and other marine life. A clean net weighs less than two tons. The investigation found that each of Cooke’s ten nets weighed more than 11 tons. This increased drag on the nets from currents and overpowered the anchoring system. This likely caused both the damage in July and the catastrophic failure in August. (Read the penalty.)

Ecology worked with the state departments of Natural Resources and Fish & Wildlife on this investigation and found Cooke at fault for the failure of the Cypress Island net pen. (Learn more about the findings on the inter-agency incident webpage:

Ecology penalties may be appealed to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board within 30 days. Money collected from water pollution fines is placed in the state’s Coastal Protection Fund that provides grants for water quality improvement projects.

Contact information

Jessica Payne
Twitter: ecologywa