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Cooke Aquaculture pays $332,000 over escaped Atlantic salmon

Cooke Aquaculture fish farm. (Credit: Wild Fish Conservancy)

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — A salmon-farming company has agreed to pay $332,000 in fines after one of its floating pens collapsed in 2017, releasing a quarter-million nonnative Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound.

The state Department of Ecology announced Monday that Cooke Aquaculture had dropped its appeal and agreed to pay the full fine.

The incident prompted fears of an environmental disaster, as Atlantic salmon are considered invasive and can compete with native salmon. Fish and game officials waived size limits and urged people to go out and catch as many of the escaped fish as possible.

The Legislature last year decided to ban farming of nonnative fish by 2022. The Bellingham Herald reports that Ecology is also strengthening oversight of Cooke Aquaculture’s remaining four pens, including video monitoring and inspections.

About 80 percent of the fine will be spent on regional salmon enhancement or habitat restoration projects. The rest will go to the state’s Coastal Protection Fund.

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