Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe in court against Washington DNR over ban on net-pen aquaculture

Port Angeles, Washington, USA, where Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe wants to open Salish Fish, its joint project with Cooke to farm steelhead trout. Photo: Adobe Stock.
Port Angeles, Washington, USA, where Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe wants to open Salish Fish, its joint project with Cooke to farm steelhead trout. Photo: Adobe Stock.

On Wednesday it was Cooke and two days later, it is the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe that is taking legal action against the Wahington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) over the ban on net-pen aquaculture in Puget Sound. In a statement issued today Friday, the Olympic Peninsula tribe said it is doing so to protect its sovereign rights in response to the recent "ill-informed and overreaching" decision by Commissioner Hillary Franz and the DNR to ban sustainable marine aquaculture in Puget Sound waters

Sovereign right of self-governance and self-reliance

"By taking legal action today, the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe is strongly defending its sovereign right of self-governance and self-reliance by utilizing marine net-pen aquaculture to provide traditional sustenance and guarantee Tribal food security from our established fishery in our Usual and Accustomed Treaty Area in Puget Sound and the Salish Sea", the tribe claims in the statement announcing the lawsuit against the DNR.

As they already emphasized in its statement after learning of the DNR's decision not to renew Cooke's trout licenses – which in turn jeopardized their joint Salish Fish project -, fish and shellfish have always been an integral part of the S'Klallam culture and for millennia have served to feed their families and trade with other tribes. "Our Tribe is desiring to take advantage of 21st century technology to advance this industry", they now say.

"As a Tribe, we have always been conscientious stewards of our natural environment and look seven generations ahead in all that we do", claims W. Ron Allen, CEO and Tribal Chairman of the Jamestown S'Klallam. "Modern, well-regulated aquaculture is the environmentally responsible solution for producing seafood and exercising our Tribal treaty rights – now and into the future", he adds.

All in jeopardy

Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe states in their release that food sovereignty, the ability to grow and provide for their own food sources, builds self-reliance, independence, and confidence in their youth and community. "That is all in jeopardy now due to Commissioner Franz's announcement to end marine net-pen aquaculture in Puget Sound", they state. According to them, this decision was highly undemocratic. "Commissioner Franz has mistakenly usurped the authority of our Washington State Legislature to make public policy decisions, like the bipartisan bill passed in 2018 which allows native species marine net-pen farming in Washington waters", they continue.

Likewise, the tribe insists once again that the Wahington Department of Natural Resources' decision goes against science. "A vast array of scientific studies have repeatedly shown that well-regulated aquaculture is not an ecological threat to the Puget Sound marine environment", they said. As they point out in their statement, farmed seafood requires the lowest energy demand of any protein source and produces far fewer greenhouse gas emissions than land-based agriculture.

"It seems only natural that Washington would embrace aquaculture as an industry that complements its own natural stock fisheries and allows our State to be a global leader in feeding the planet, and sourcing locally grown seafood in the most climate friendly way possible", they conclude.

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