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Nathan Cultee dumps 16 farm-raised Atlantic salmon into a container on Tuesday, August 22, 2017, at Home Port Seafood in Bellingham.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Bill Radke talks to Lynda Mapes, environment reporter for The Seattle Times, about where all of the nearly 100,000 escaped Atlantic salmon went and what lawmakers in Olympia plan to do about it. 

Washington Dept. of Natural Resources

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.

Aboard fishing vessel Marathon, Nathan Cultee tosses one of 16 farm-raised Atlantic salmon caught after a day of fishing on Tuesday, August 22, 2017, at Home Port Seafoods in Bellingham.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

A Washington state conservation group is suing the owners of an Atlantic fish farm that failed over the summer. 

Wild Fish Conservancy says the company negligently allowed the salmon escape to happen, which would be a Clean Water Act violation.

Turning to face the water behind her, Roxanne White recalled her ancestors’ memories of the Columbia River.

“At one point, if you can imagine, they would say you could walk off the backs of the salmon across the river,” said White, a Yakama Nation descendant. “Now they’re so minimal, and they’re sick. Just like our mother earth; just like our water.” 

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 beaver may be Oregon's official state animal but that status is not shielding it from being killed by the hundreds by a federal agency. 

The killing could end, though, if two environmental groups prevail with their new lawsuit challenging the practice. They contend that it's harming more than just the state’s marquee mammal.

Can Fugitive Atlantic Salmon Survive In The Wild?

Oct 25, 2017

Atlantic salmon have been entering Pacific waters for decades. Most of them have died of starvation. 

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of colonizing the Northwest.

Fugitive Atlantic salmon have been caught as far as 250 miles from the Cypress Island fish farm they escaped from in August.
Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

Atlantic salmon have spread far and wide in Pacific Northwest waters since 160,000 of them escaped from a collapsed fish farm near Anacortes in August. The fishy fugitives have swum 130 miles south past Tacoma, 250 miles northwest past Tofino (most of the way up Vancouver Island) and up a half-dozen rivers around the region, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

How Salmon Sex Shapes Landscapes And Watersheds

Oct 20, 2017

It may have taken millions of years, but researchers have found that the way salmon reproduce has shaped our watersheds and landscapes.

When salmon spawn, the female digs a big hole in the stream bed. She then swishes around — that movement can send fairly large pieces of gravel downstream.

These tiny movements can add up to big changes.

A bill sponsored by several U.S. House members from the Northwest aims to overturn two recent court decisions on Columbia and Snake river dams.

Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon rejected the federal plan for managing dams to protect salmon in the Columbia River Basin.

Nathan Cultee dumps 16 farm-raised Atlantic salmon into a container on Tuesday, August 22, 2017, at Home Port Seafood in Bellingham.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Bill Radke talks to Lynda Mapes, The Seattle Times environment reporter, about Washington's disappearing salmon population and what it says about the health of our coast and Puget Sound.  

Washington state Department of Natural Resources

A state-ordered inspection has found "severe corrosion" at another Atlantic salmon farm in Puget Sound, this one along the ferry route between Bremerton and Seattle.


As flames from the Eagle Creek Fire pushed closer to the Columbia River, Oregon officials had a quick decision to make.

The Fish and Wildlife hatcheries in the fire’s path housed six million fish, mostly chinook and coho salmon and steelhead.

And some of those fish were in trouble.

“Their water source, which at the time was Tanner Creek at Bonneville Hatchery, was literally engulfed in flames. The hatchery intake on the creek got clogged up, and we weren’t able to get water to the fish,” said Ken Loffink, a spokesman for ODFW.

The forest fires raging in the Columbia River Gorge are unlikely to disturb adult coho salmon right now. But Northwest tribal fishers are worried about what will happen in the fall.

A wild Pacific salmon, left, next to an escaped farm-raised Atlantic salmon, right, on Aug. 22 at Home Port Seafoods in Bellingham.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

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.

The state of Washington is calling all fishermen to catch unlimited farmed Atlantic salmon with no size or weight limits after a net pen broke last week, allowing thousands of the non-native fish to escape into the open ocean.

The pen, in the state's northwestern San Juan Islands, contained about 305,000 Atlantic salmon, and is owned by Cooke Aquaculture.

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.

Q&A: So Why Are Atlantic Salmon In The Northwest?

Aug 25, 2017

Last weekend, a net pen broke apart near Washington’s Cypress Island. The pen held 305,000 Atlantic salmon, non-native fish.

The company that owns the pen, Cooke Aquaculture, says it is unsure exactly how many Atlantic salmon escaped. It estimates somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 fish. Cooke and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are inventorying fish are still inside the pens.

A wild Pacific salmon, left, next to an escaped farm-raised Atlantic salmon, right, on Aug. 22 at Home Port Seafoods in Bellingham.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

The farmed Atlantic salmon that spilled into Puget Sound would have gone to market soon.

More than 300,000 were in a privately owned net off of Cypress Island when the net broke Aug. 19.

Aboard fishing vessel Marathon, Nathan Cultee tosses one of 16 farm-raised Atlantic salmon caught after a day of fishing on Tuesday, August 22, 2017, at Home Port Seafoods in Bellingham.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

The scene near Cypress Island is being described as a circus after thousands of farmed Atlantic salmon spilled out of a net last weekend near the San Juan Islands. The company that owns the net, Cooke Aquaculture, has not yet confirmed if the spill is contained.

A wild Pacific salmon, left, next to an escaped farm-raised Atlantic salmon, right, on Aug. 22 at Home Port Seafoods in Bellingham.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Jeannie Yandel talks to Renee Erickson, Seattle chef, author and owner of The Walrus and The Carpenter, and Barton Seaver, author, chef and the director of the Sustainable Seafood and Health Initiative at Harvard University, about farming seafood and the future of salmon consumption. 

Aboard fishing vessel Marathon, Nathan Cultee, right, and Nicholas Cooke, left, unload 16 farm-raised Atlantic salmon into a container after a day of fishing on Tuesday, August 22, 2017, at Home Port Seafood in Bellingham.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

It was a convenient explanation.


Jeannie Yandel talks to Ron Warren, head of the fish program for the Washington State Fish and Wildlife Department, about non-native salmon swimming in Washington water after they escaped from pens at a fish farm off the coast of Cypress Island near Anacortes.  

Washington Department of Natural Resources

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has made a name for himself this year by battling the Trump administration in court. Now he wants to take on tribal governments at the U.S. Supreme Court over salmon.

Beach-goers in Seattle enjoy a Puget Sound shore in Seattle.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

While the Trump administration aims to slash funding for environmental protection nationwide and eliminate funding for cleaning up Puget Sound, the Republican-controlled Congress hasn’t seen things the same way.

What's the best way to ensure the return of salmon and steelhead to something like their historic numbers in the Columbia and Snake rivers? It’s been a hotly debated question for more than 20 years. And it's getting a renewed look with a controversial option on the table:

Removing the four lower Snake River dams.

On a research boat on the Columbia River, Laurie Weitkamp with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grabs two buckets filled with water and about a dozen young salmon and steelhead.

“Ooh, we got some steelies!” she says.

By stretching a net across the river below Bonneville Dam, researchers are intercepting the fish swimming toward the ocean to see what they’ve been eating.

Spawning salmon
US Bureau of Land Management

Salmon are starting to lose their sense of smell and their fear of predators, according to research from federal and university scientists in Seattle.


Culvert Case Decision A 'Win For Salmon' In Washington

May 22, 2017

A big court decision could open up new habitat for salmon in Washington and end up costing the state billions of dollars. The case stemmed from poor maintenance and design of road culverts, which can block fish passage upstream.

A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Friday denied the state’s request to rehear the case. A lower court had ordered the state in 2013 to fix hundreds of road culverts.

Road culverts are those metal pipes or concrete boxes you see carrying streams underneath roads. There are thousands across the Northwest.

Georgia Tech

To the list of global problems the world’s oceans are facing, you can add another: They’re losing oxygen.

The Pacific Ocean off the U.S. West Coast, from central California to Alaska, is one of the hardest-hit areas.


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