cooke aquaculture

Eilis O'Neill/KUOW/EarthFix

This is the final part in a series on the future of fish farming in the Pacific Northwest. Read part 1 here.

Inside a chilly warehouse on the north end of Vancouver Island, eight giant tanks are lit with swimming pool lights. These are fish tanks — some of the biggest fish tanks around. Every so often the glistening back of a fish surfaces.

This is Kuterra, an Atlantic salmon farm that operates on land. That land belongs to the Namgis First Nation.

Eilis O’Neill/KUOW/EarthFix

 This is the first in a two-part series on Atlantic salmon fish farming in the Northwest. Read part 2 here.

The Hope Island Fish Farm floats in the middle of Puget Sound, about a 15-minute boat ride from Whidbey Island’s Deception Pass. Narrow metal walkways surround giant nets anchored to the bottom of the sound. Those nets hold thousands of Atlantic salmon--though it’s difficult to see them until they jump.


Officials with the company that spilled nearly 160,000 Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound in August say there has been no evidence the spill has done damage to the sound.

State officials agreed with that assessment at a legislative hearing in Olympia.

Jill Davenport

Nearly half the anchor lines on an Atlantic salmon farm snapped one evening in July, a month before an even worse accident caused the aging pens to collapse completely.

The damage in July was severe enough that the entire steel structure drifted "considerably" to the south, according to a detailed timeline of the two accidents released last week by the owners of the football-field-sized farm.

Neither Cooke Aquaculture nor Washington state officials conducted a formal investigation of the July accident.


Last summer’s escape of more than 100,000 Atlantic salmon from a fish farm in Puget Sound renewed a debate among scientists about whether or not these fish can survive long term in the Pacific Northwest.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press

Atlantic salmon have spread far and wide since they escaped from a fish farm near Anacortes in August. That raises fears they could harm the Northwest’s wild salmon.



Cooke Aquaculture and state officials knew at least six months ago that the floating salmon farm that collapsed in August was "nearing the end of serviceable life," with accelerating corrosion eating away at its hinges and steel structure.


Clallam County, Washington, has put a temporary hold on an aquaculture company's application to relocate and expand a salmon farm near Port Angeles. This comes as the company is cleaning up after a mass escape of non-native Atlantic salmon from a different net pen it owns to the east at Cypress Island.

Opponents of salmon farming are seizing the moment.