GAA Defends Cooke Aquaculture’s Bid to Farm Steelhead Trout in Puget Sound

The Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) defends Cooke Aquaculture in its bid to switch from farming Atlantic salmon to steelhead trout in Washington state’s Puget Sound. In a letter submitted to Washington state’s Department of Ecology as part of a public comment period as Cooke Aquaculture seeks the water-quality permits necessary to make the switch at four net-pen farm sites, GAA commended the New Brunswick-based company for its history of responsible aquaculture.

Cooke Aquaculture is facing attacks from Washington state-based NGO Wild Fish Conservancy through its partnership with outdoor apparel company Patagonia and its subsidiary Patagonia Provisions, a line of specialty food items that includes sockeye salmon, pink salmon and smoked mussels. Patagonia Provisions has released a 58-minute video titled “Take Back Puget Sound, Session 001” to discredit Cooke Aquaculture and finfish aquaculture in general.

As a global leader in responsible aquaculture and a leading proponent of the world’s largest and most comprehensive third-party aquaculture certification program, Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP), Cooke Aquaculture is well positioned to ensure that all-female, sterile steelhead trout (also called rainbow trout) is raised in a responsible manner with minimal impact to the surrounding environment.

Cooke Aquaculture was an early adopter of the BAP salmon farm standards when they were released in June 2011. By March 2015, Cooke Aquaculture had achieved four-star BAP status, one of only three salmon-farming companies in the world to do so at the time. Four-star BAP status is the highest designation in the BAP program, representing that a combination of a company’s processing plants, farms, hatcheries and feed mills are BAP certified.

BAP is the world’s most comprehensive aquaculture certification program, with standards encompassing environmental responsibility, social accountability, animal health and welfare, and food safety. Processing plants, farms, hatcheries and feed mills must demonstrate 100 percent compliance to these standards in an annual audit to attain BAP certification, and Cooke has done so for the majority of its facilities.

GAA applauds Cooke Aquaculture for its work to greatly reduce the use of antibiotics, and as a number of its salmon hatcheries and farms were audited last year to verify that no antibiotics were used throughout the entire life cycle of those fish. This has not yet been achieved for all salmon produced by Cooke Aquaculture, but they are certainly a leader in responsible use of therapeutants.

The Northwest Aquaculture Association has also released a statement in support of Cooke Aquaculture.

It is disappointing that Wild Fish Conservancy and Patagonia continue to attack Cooke Aquaculture even after Washington state lawmakers passed a law in March 2018 phasing out non-native species in Washington’s marine waters by 2022, in reaction to Atlantic salmon escaping from one of Cooke Aquaculture’s net pens on Cypress Island in August 2017. (Steelhead trout are exempt from the law.) Last year, GAA responded to attacks from Patagonia’s documentary film “Artifishal,” which disparaged finfish aquaculture.

Cooke Aquaculture’s decision to raise all-female, sterile steelhead trout is a responsible solution that preserved jobs and contributes a healthful food to the local community.

For more information, check out the July 27 Global Aquaculture Advocate article “Switch to steelhead has Cooke on a new path in Puget Sound.”

Switch to steelhead has Cooke on a new path in Puget Sound