Cooke Aquaculture's ruined Atlantic salmon farm off Cypress Island on Aug. 28, 2017.
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Cooke Aquaculture's ruined Atlantic salmon farm off Cypress Island on Aug. 28, 2017.
Credit: Washington Dept. of Natural Resources

Atlantic salmon farms pay $2.75M to settle Puget Sound lawsuit

UPDATE Nov. 30, 2019, 4:45 p.m.:

Cooke Aquaculture has agreed to pay $2.75 million in a legal settlement announced by the Wild Fish Conservancy the night before Thanksgiving.

Most of the sum will cover Wild Fish Conservancy’s $1.6 million in legal expenses.

Another $1.15 million will go to the Oakland-based Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment for projects to improve water quality and fish habitat in Puget Sound.

Cooke also agreed to upgrade its facilities and conduct analyses of the loads its cages and mooring systems would face from tides, waves and wind before loading any more salmon or trout in them.

That requirement could affect the company’s ongoing proposal to raise native steelhead, the ocean-going version of rainbow trout, at its farms.

Cooke vice president Joel Richardson declined to comment on the details of the settlement. "We too take our commitment to the environment seriously and are committed to raising native species responsibly, continuing to invest and keeping people working," Richardson said in an email.

Atlantic salmon farms go on trial Monday, Dec. 2, in Seattle.

Environmentalists have taken the owners of a salmon farm that collapsed two years ago to court for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.Puget Sound has just two farms that still raise Atlantic salmon today.

That’s down from eight a couple years ago, when a poorly maintained Cooke Aquaculture farm collapsed. A quarter-million fish from another ocean escaped into Puget Sound.

An activist group called the Wild Fish Conservancy is suing Cooke. The group says Cooke failed to keep the collapsed farm in good condition and is doing the same at its remaining farms.

The activists say Cooke's negligence leaves Puget Sound at risk of another big fish spill.

Cooke says it will harvest the last of its Washington state Atlantic salmon in the next six months.

After the great salmon escape, the state outlawed farming of non-native fish in Washington waters. Cooke is proposing to raise native steelhead at its farms instead.

This story has been updated.