Aquaculture North America

Thurston County judge rules Washington’s net pen ban has ‘no legal effect’

October 23, 2023
By Aquaculture North America staff

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Indu Thomas has ruled that Washington’s net pen ban has “no legal effect.”

This ruling came after a summary judgment hearing in the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe-Northwest Aquaculture Alliance’s (NWAA) complaint against the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

In a Nov. 18, 2022, press conference, Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz announced that Washington’s public aquatic lands will no longer be home to commercial finfish net pen aquaculture. The Oct. 20 decision from the court declares that the “ban” on commercial net pens is an internal directive to begin the rule-making process regarding commercial net pens in state aquatic lands.

NWAA issued the following statement in response”

“When NWAA intervened in the Jamestown S’Klallam complaint, we had hoped the Court would find that Commissioner Franz overstepped her authority in banning commercial net pens in state-owned aquatic lands. Instead, we got the next best thing: clarification that what looked to the entire aquaculture sector as a de-facto ban on commercial net pens in Washington is not a ban at all — just hyperbole on the part of a politically motivated agency head who is now running to be the next Washington governor,” said Jeanne McKnight, NWAA executive director.

“While we are grateful for the clarification by the Court, the fact remains that the public statements by Commissioner Franz had a chilling effect on the entire aquaculture sector, caused by the climate of uncertainty from DNR’s public condemnation of one of the world’s most sustainable methods of food production,” McKnight said.

“Now that we can confirm that marine fish farming is still legal in Washington State, we will continue to advocate for the development of responsible, sustainable aquaculture in the Pacific Region,” McKnight added.

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