The Washington state Supreme Court recently issued a unanimous ruling that represented a significant victory for science, tribal treaty rights and food security for our Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and community.
The court said that the state Department of Fish and Wildlife properly approved a marine finfish aquaculture permit that allowed Cooke Aquaculture Pacific LLC to farm native, all-female, sterile steelhead trout in Puget Sound.
The court noted that the state agency spent a full year reviewing scientific reports and soliciting public input regarding Cooke’s desire to raise native, all-female sterile steelhead in net-pens in Puget Sound. The agency wisely conditioned the permit on a series of risk-mitigation efforts, including the following stringent requirements: stocking of sterile all-female steelhead to reduce any reproductive risk to wild steelhead runs, a comprehensive round-the-clock monitoring and reporting program of conditions at the farms, and the use of modern mooring and cage systems engineered to withstand the harshest of weather conditions in ocean settings.
In a rebuke to one of the main plaintiffs, Wild Fish Conservancy, the court dismissed its arguments regarding the possible adverse environmental impacts of aquaculture in Puget Sound and upheld the state’s rigorous process of relying on peer-reviewed scientific research.
The court’s decision clears the way for the launch of Salish Fish, our new joint venture seafood company with Cooke Aquaculture. Our tribe is incredibly pleased to announce this joint venture, which is based on shared values and a commitment to sustainability, science-based marine practices and forward-thinking innovation.
Just as the state did before it issued its permit, Salish Fish will be guided by fact, science, and new technology in developing and managing an environmentally safe and sustainable fish farm. Our state-of-the-art facility and monitoring system will include sophisticated sensors, high-resolution underwater cameras and computer-controlled fish feeding systems that measure exact feeding requirements within 1% accuracy.
This technology allows for responsible and comprehensive environmental monitoring of water quality parameters such as oxygen levels, temperature, sedimentation, tidal currents, plankton levels and weather conditions.
Fish and shellfish have always been an integral part of S’Klallam culture as sustenance, as well as for the traditions associated with harvest, preparation and celebration. For millennia, S’Klallam people fed their families with fish and shellfish, and traded their abundant harvest with other tribes, devising methods for holding fresh catch and preserving the harvest for future consumption. Tragically, population growth, pollution and development activities in the Pacific Northwest have negatively impacted our wild fish stocks, and we must take pressure off wild fish harvesting through sustainable aquaculture farming practices.
More than 80% of the seafood consumed by America is imported. Salish Fish will provide fresh, local seafood as an alternative and restore tribal fisheries on the Olympic Peninsula, a critical need for tribal economic self-sufficiency. Growing our own seafoods will further increase the security of our food sources and our food sovereignty — the ability to grow and provide one’s own food sources. Secure, safe and sustainable food supplies are important to our tribal family and the local communities here on the Olympic Peninsula. Most important, food sovereignty builds self-reliance, independence and confidence in our youth and community.
The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe is looking at how to adjust to the current and future conditions of our environment and looking ahead at the next seven generations. Our tribe sees modern aquaculture as the environmentally responsible solution for producing seafood and exercising our treaty rights — now and into the future.