A new inspection has found deficiencies at more Cooke Aquaculture Atlantic salmon net pens in Puget Sound. The inspection report follows Washington state’s decision to terminate the company’s leases at five other pens.
Deficiencies have been found at Cooke Aquaculture’s Atlantic salmon net pens in Puget Sound by an independent inspector, the state Department of Natural Resources reports.
Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz ordered inspections of all nine of Cooke’s net pens after a catastrophic collapse of one of its net pens at Cypress Island in the San Juans last August, allowing more than 200,000 Atlantic salmon to escape into the Salish Sea.
The latest inspections from the contractor hired by the state, Mott MacDonald of Edmonds, found deficiencies at Cooke’s operations at its Hope Island and Rich Passage facilities, according to the reports released Friday.
Problems included poor condition and deterioration of some anchor lines, surface rust and corrosion on parts of the facilities and concern about whether anchors were inside the boundaries of the net-pen leases.
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Joel Richardson, vice president for public relations for Cooke, said the company was reviewing the reports and had no immediate comment.
Inspections at Cooke’s Cypress Island facility have led to termination of the lease by the department. Two more pens at Port Angeles also lost their lease, a revocation Cooke is fighting in court.
At the Fort Ward facility in Rich Passage, inspectors found chain links on an anchor line had lost up to 75 percent of holding capacity because of corrosion.
The inspector also could not confirm the Fort Ward anchors were inside the lease boundary for the fish farm. Several moorings ended on or near a dock that is part of an entirely separate lease, according to the report.
Maintenance was also an issue. “Maintenance conducted by the owner does not appear in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations or industry standards,” reviewers found. The frequency and thoroughness of inspections by the owner also could not be determined.
At Cooke’s Hope Island facility, five miles from the mouth of the Skagit River, inspections conducted by Cooke also “do not appear in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations or industry standards,” the report found.
The biggest concern was the mooring system that keeps the farm in place in the water.
“The adequacy of the moorings to resist the currents and environmental loads observed at the site could not be verified with any documentation,” the inspectors found.
Divers also found an anchor line suffering severe corrosion, though Cooke employees reported it in good condition in March 2017. Another anchor line was found to be disconnected entirely from the anchor.
After inspectors notified Cooke, the anchor line was reattached by Cooke, according to the report.
Franz said she and her team will assess the inspection reports and determine what action should be taken.
“I will continue to use my authority to ensure that all lessees abide by the terms of their agreements and that our people and our waters are protected,” Franz said in a news release.
Cooke was found in an investigation by three state agencies after the Cypress Island collapse to have been negligent, causing the breakdown. The company was fined $332,000 by the state Department of Ecology for water-quality violations.
The agencies also found Cooke misled the public as to the cause of the escape and number of fish released. Cooke has disputed those findings.