Four large environmental groups are suing the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
At issue is the agency's approval of Cooke Aquaculture's plans to switch to native steelhead farming in net pens in Puget Sound. The permit would apply to four existing net pens with valid leases and possibly three more later.
Kurt Beardslee — executive director of the Wild Fish Conservancy, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit — says the environmental impact statement (EIS) the permit relies on uses scientific analysis from 1990. But many endangered and threatened species, including steelhead, killer whales and Chinook salmon have been listed within the past 30 years.
“We need to put together an environmental review that takes into consideration all of their needs, as well as water-quality issues and other issues that are important to the people of Puget Sound,” Beardslee said.
Fish and Wildlife says the EIS from 1990 was not the basis of its decision, and that they conducted a careful review of current science.
The decision is still awaiting approval from the state Department of Ecology. Washington is the only West Coast state to allow net-pen farming. The groups suing say fish farming should be done only on land, in tanks.