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Kevin Ranker, a member of Washington's Senate, delivers a speech. Photo: Senate Democrats
Kevin Ranker, a member of Washington's Senate, delivers a speech. Photo: Senate Democrats

A US politician is attempting to ban net-pen salmon farming in Washington state following the escape of thousands of fish from a Cooke Aquaculture Pacific farm at Cypress Island.

The legislation proposed by Washington senate member Kevin Ranker would allow existing state leases for the eight Atlantic net-pen farms now operating in Washington to run out by 2025, reports the Seattle Times. All eight are owned by Cooke, and were bought from Icicle Seafoods last year.

No permits for new farms would be granted, and no renewals for existing leases would be allowed. The bill also would require state agencies that regulate net-pen farming to keep a tighter watch on operations.

Cooke's recently-acquired Cypress Island No.2 farm in Washington state collapsed in August.
Cooke's recently-acquired Cypress Island No.2 farm in Washington state collapsed in August.

Ranker is a member of the Democratic party, which gained control of the Washington State Senate the week before last. In his official party biography, he is described as "an avid surfer, fisherman, sailor and runner", and served as an advisor to President Obama’s National Ocean Council.

'A big problem here'

According to the Seattle Times, Ranker called the escape of more than 100,000 Atlantic salmon into Puget Sound “a disaster,” but not his biggest concern about the industry.

“This has been a long time coming,” Ranker said. “I am more concerned with the day-to-day impact of invasive-species aquaculture of Atlantic salmon than the escape. It woke us up to the fact that there is a big problem here.”

State agency managers are still assessing environmental effects from the spill. So far, Atlantic salmon have not been found on wild salmon spawning grounds, and the fish that escaped were sexually immature, and therefore unable to crossbreed with native salmon, or reproduce with one another. The fish also appear not to have fed — and were starving to death.

 State agency staff also said several fish had been tested and found to be free of diseases or parasites, including sea lice.