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“We urge the DNR to reverse this ill-informed order, follow science instead of politics and continue to allow well-regulated and environmentally safe marine net pen aquaculture in Puget Sound”. The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe has come out strongly after the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced a ban on net pen aquaculture on state-owned aquatic lands managed by them. The Tribe said it is “seriously disturbed” by Commissioner Franz’s decision.

Political announcement, anti-democratic order

“DNR announcement was political; crafted to placate ill-informed activist groups who refuse to admit the vast array of scientific studies show us that well-regulated aquaculture is not a threat to the environment, or wild salmon”, said the release. “The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe was seriously disturbed by the unilateral decision announced today by Washington State Department of Natural Resources’ Commissioner Hillary Franz to end valuable and sustainable commercial fin-fish farming in Washington waters”, they claimed. 

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According to the Tribe, Salish Fish, its marine aquaculture venture in partnership with Cookewhich has also spoken out against the DNR’s decision -, would provide fresh, local seafood and restore tribal fisheries on the Olympic Peninsula, “a critical need for tribal economic self-sufficiency”, they say. “DNR’s order is highly undemocratic, usurping the authority of our Washington State Legislature to make sound public policy decisions, like the bipartisan bill passed in 2018 which allows native species farming in Washington waters”, they added.

Different opinions among tribes

At the time of the announcement of the new DNR order, Commissioner Franz was supported by Leonard Forsman of the Suquamish Tribe, and in the subsequent press release, the decision was also endorsed by statements from Anthony “Tse Sum Ten” Hillaire, Chairman of the Lummi Nation; Teri Gobin, Chairman of the Tulalip Tribes; and Tom Wooten, Chairman of the Samish Indian Nation. All of them, in one way or another, claimed that ending commercial finfish farming in their ancestral waters is an important step to protecting water quality in the Salish Sea, a delicate ecosystem in need of conservation.

The Jamestown S’Klallam do not think that this is incompatible with the practice of commercial aquaculture. “Our Tribe have always been conscientious stewards of our natural environment and look seven generations ahead in all that we do. We view modern aquaculture as the environmentally responsible solution for producing seafood and exercising our treaty rights – now and into the future”, they said.

Appealing to science

As they did last week, following the DNR’s decision not to renew Cooke’s Puget Sound steelhead trout farm licenses – which put their Salish Fish Project in jeopardy -, the Tribe has again remarked that Commissioner Franz is not following the science. “This action is an irresponsible denial of what science has proven: marine net pen aquaculture is safe for the environment and the most sustainable, climate friendly way to feed the world”, they stated.

“The Jamestown S’Klallam and Cooke Aquaculture share a commitment to sustainability, science-based marine practices, and forward-thinking seafood producing innovation”, they insisted. “By working together, combining our histories and experience, we could succeed at raising native trout and sablefish, contributing to our local economy, and supplying our region with fresh, sustainably sourced seafood”, ended.

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