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Following Cooke’s response to the DNR’s decision not to renew its trout farming licenses, three major U.S. trade groups are calling for an independent review of the decision by a third party or parties. The Northwest Aquaculture Alliance (NWAA), the National Fisheries Institute (NFI), and the National Aquaculture Association (NAA) are proposing that institutions such as the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences do so. “This has not been a science-based decision”, says NWAA President Jim Parsons.

The release backs up Cooke’s statement asserting that science does not support Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz’s claims that eliminating these farms will save wild fish and natural habitat.

Not a decision based on science

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As Cooke did in his public response, Jim Parsons NWAA President and CEO of tribally owned Jamestown Seafood also thinks the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) decision is not based on science. “In terminating Cooke’s marine net pen leases, the DNR has ignored the best available science from NOAA, a state Supreme Court ruling, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Washington Department of Ecology, to name just a few of the countless scientific studies from other regions demonstrating that marine aquaculture does not harm endangered species or wild fish stocks”, he says.

“Washington state has apparently decided to ignore the enormous body of science that shows marine aquaculture, as it is practiced today, has a negligible impact on other fish species or on the environment”, Parsons continues. The President of the Northwest Aquaculture Alliance insists that they do not understand why the DNR chooses to ignore the science that shows marine aquaculture to have a negligible impact on the water, particularly compared with other marine water users. “We find it puzzling that an agency whose mission is to protect our natural resources would target one of the most climate-friendly and environmentally beneficial food sectors”, he ends.

“Aquaculture has the ability to sustainably and affordably increase the availability of the healthiest animal protein on the planet, while also producing jobs, an impressive combination”, backs Gavin Gibbons, Vice President for Communications at the National Fisheries Institute. “At a time when important efforts to grow the US aquaculture sector are underway, this decision is disappointing”, he claims.

Great loss to local economies and public health

In addition to that call for science, Cooke’s response also noted that Washington State has always been a leader in the development and implementation of permit requirements for fish farms, something the National Aquaculture Association also emphasizes. “The US aquaculture farming community recognizes the value and benefits of regulations to protect the public, environment, and farming operations”, says NAA President, Sebastian Belle.

“In this instance where science is ignored, which is so very critical to achieving excellence in governance and finding a balance between man and nature, no one benefits. We strongly support an independent review by objective scientists and hope the citizens of Puget Sound will agree”, Belle adds. Citizen input is important because, among other things, jobs will be destroyed in the area.

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“The DNR decision will have devastating consequences for our rural communities where living-wage jobs are scarce, while at the same time taking healthy protein off American plates. This will result in a great loss to local economies and public health”, predicts NWAA President, Jim Parsons.

Later to this statement, the Global Seafood Alliance also made public its support for this request for an independent third party review. Through a post on LinkedIn, its Director of Communications, Media and Events, Steven Hedlund has called the decision not to renew Cooke Aquaculture Inc.’s steelhead fish farm contracts and to require the company to begin decommissioning its fish farms within two weeks as “mind-boggling.”

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