Aquaculture North America

Cooke Aquaculture quits court battle against Washington’s DNR

March 20, 2024
By Aquaculture North America staff

Cooke Aquaculture Pacific LLC has dismissed its appeal against the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”) seeking reinstatement of Cooke’s leases at the Rich Passage and Hope Island steelhead trout fish farms in Puget Sound.

Cooke initially commenced this action when DNR refused to give enough time to safely harvest its fish and remove farming equipment from the water following DNR’s “arbitrary and punitive lease renewal denials in 2022.” 

In January 2023, Judge Indu Thomas of the Superior Court of the State of Washington swiftly banned DNR from enforcing the deadlines without endangering its employees. Since the injunction was issued against DNR in January 2023, Cooke tried to obtain public records from DNR needed for a fair appeal hearing before the court but didn’t get any and has not provided any substantive responses that would allow Cooke to explain to the Court the arbitrary basis for the lease denials. 

According to Cooke, “Based on the number of records that DNR claims are responsive to Cooke’s request, at the rate DNR has produced records to date, it would take another six to seven years for all responsive records to be produced by DNR which is an untenable and inconceivable situation.”


“As a result of DNR Commissioner Hilary Franz’s arbitrary decision, over 100 Washington fish farming professionals including farm managers, veterinarians, hatchery technicians, truck drivers, processing plant workers and vessel crew have since been forced out of their jobs by Franz following the baseless closure of locally established fish farms,” a press release from Cooke states.

Cooke says the Rich Passage and Hope Island fish farms have been at the same locations for over 40 years, and scientific studies and monitoring data showed that they did not negatively impact the environment. In 2019, The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife approved Cooke’s five-year trout farming permit after conducting an extensive review under the Environmental Policy Act.

“A further hearing on this matter is futile without Cooke having an opportunity to review DNR’s internal records and ensure the record before the Court is complete. Such a hearing would be a waste of judicial resources and everyone’s time, therefore, Cooke has filed a motion to dismiss its appeal.”

Cooke says it continues to work with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe to pursue projects that allow the tribe to provide for its people and that foster sustainable seafood production on the Olympic Peninsula.

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