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Cooke Aquaculture Sues Wash. DNR Over Canceled Net Pen Lease In Port Angeles

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Courtesy of the Department of Natural Resources
The state terminated the lease last month for Cook Aquaculture's facility in Port Angeles. The company is now appealing.

Cooke Aquaculture has filed suit against the state Department of Natural Resources. The company wants a court to reverse the state’s termination of its lease for an Atlantic salmon fish farm near Port Angeles.  

On Dec. 15, DNR served notice on Cooke, immediately terminating the Port Angeles lease, citing violations including defective anchoring and mooring lines that extend outside the lease area.

Cooke spokesman Joel Richardson says the notice came as a big surprise.

“All of the items that DNR had initial concerns about in the lease termination were in fact repaired and in the process of being repaired as part of our overall regular maintenance that we do to all of our sites,” Richardson said.

In addition, he says when Cooke acquired the net pens from Icicle Seafoods in 2016, DNR approved the lease transfer without notifying Cooke that any mooring lines needed to be moved.

The company says they are hoping to meet with Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz later this month, but filed suit now to protect their legal rights.  

In a statement, Franz responded calling the lawsuit "meritless." She is encouraging Cooke to drop it and work collaboratively with DNR to safely close down the facility.

The dispute comes in the wake of the collapse of net pens at a different Cooke facility off Cyprus Island this summer, resulting in the escape of hundreds of thousands of non-native Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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