Hilary Franz, the Commissioner of Public Lands, made the "unilateral and unscientific" decision in November 2022 to ban aquaculture in state waters that Washington fish farm workers are complaining about.
Washington fish farm workers are joining against Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz's "unilateral and unscientific decision" to ban fish farming in State waters. The Northwest Aquaculture Alliance (NWAA) is the lead organization behind the campaign that has brought workers together to demand their rights. Jeanne McKnight, NWAA's executive director, explained that Franz was "acting politically". Her objective, in NWAA's words, was "trying to score political points with activist groups."
As a result of Hilary Franz's decision, the fish farmers would have lost their jobs in November 2022, and from then on, the citizens of Washington would have no fish available at an affordable price.
"This unscientific ban on commercial net pens shows that Hilary Franz is playing politics with your dinner plate—At the expense of hard-working, dedicated people who have made the production of nutritious seafood their life-long career," McKnight said. "It's outrageous that Franz ignored multiple peer-reviewed scientific studies proving the ecological safety of farming fish and completely disregarded a unanimous Supreme Court decision affirming the legality of farming native steelhead in our state waters."
They are not only complaining about the facts but also about the manners. The workers knew this decision by the media and she refused to meet with the employees who attended her press conference and requested to speak with her. This "is not a transparent type of leadership", they said.
They called on Governor Jay Inslee and the Washington State Legislature for further review of the consequences of Franz's decision. As McKnight explains, "It is important to question whether this unilateral decision is contrary to the letter and spirit of Washington law."
The alliance has created a popular campaign named "Stop Hilary Franz" calling on Washington citizens to send a letter to state legislators requesting a review of Franz's actions.
The legislature passed SB 3067, the Aquaculture Farming Act, in 1985 which states that "aquaculture provides a steady source of quality food, offers opportunities for new jobs, greater stability of farm income, and improves the balance of trade." In addition, the Act also states, "Therefore, it is the policy of this state to encourage the development and expansion of aquaculture within this state."
This federal legislation prevails over Washington law, even though it was amended by the passage of HB 2957 in 2018, calling for an end to the farming of non-native species in state waters, but legalizing the farming of native species in state waters. Fish farmers who lost their jobs as a result of Franz's actions were successfully raising native steelhead.