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Cooke ‘took all responsible steps’ after US die-off

A Cooke Aquaculture site in Maine. The state's Department of Environmental Protection is investigating a die-off at the company's Mount Desert Island site, which Cooke says was caused by an isolated issue of low dissolved oxygen. Photo: Cooke.
A Cooke Aquaculture site in Maine. The state's Department of Environmental Protection is investigating a die-off at the company's Mount Desert Island site, which Cooke says was caused by an isolated issue of low dissolved oxygen. Photo: Cooke.

Global salmon farmer Cooke Aquaculture says it has no case to answer following a die-off of 100,000 salmon in the United States that has prompted an investigation by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The fish died at the Canadian-owned farmer’s Mount Desert Island site, Maine, in the second half of August due to what company spokesman Joel Richardson said were uncommonly low dissolved oxygen levels in the pens.

DEP spokesman David Madore told the Bangor Daily News that Cooke did not report the die-off to the department until August 27, which was 11 days after the company’s divers first started noticing dead fish in the pens.

An isolated case

But Richardson pointed out that Cooke had already reported the mortality event to Maine’s Department of Marine Resources (DMR), the appropriate authority.

“In Maine the finfish aquaculture incident reporting requirement for fish health is to DMR, not DEP,” he told Fish Farming Expert.

“We advised DMR first and then other state and federal agencies as a courtesy. DEP stated that they had started an ‘investigation’ even though DMR is the regulating authority for a fish health incident. DMR already concluded that this event was, as Cooke indicated, an isolated issue of low dissolved oxygen which is not a compliance issue as far as our lease is concerned.

At no time was Cooke Aquaculture USA in violation of our permit through any Department nor were there any environmental concerns given the company’s rapid incident response.

Cooke spokesman Joel Richardson

“Cooke completed the safe removal of the mortalities and they were disposed of per the company’s standard operating procedures and farm management plan. We took all the responsible steps to safely remediate the situation as quickly as possible, including hiring a seining vessel for one day to help remove mortalities and clean and disinfect the wharf loading area and associated equipment to ensure a clean environment.

“While an unfortunate event, at no time was Cooke Aquaculture USA in violation of our permit through any Department nor were there any environmental concerns given the company’s rapid incident response.

“Farmers and veterinarians will attest that livestock in any farming operation can perish for a multitude of reasons. Risk and farming go hand in hand.”

The DEP expects to release the findings of its investigation in early October.