BELLINGHAM — The public is being asked to help mop up a salmon spill from an imploded net holding 305,000 fish at a Cooke Aquaculture fish farm near Cypress Island.
The Seattle Times reports Lummi fishers out for chinook on Sunday near Samish, south of Bellingham Bay, were surprised to pull up the Atlantic salmon — escapees that turned up in their nets again on Monday.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is urging the public to catch as many of the fish as possible, with no limit on size or number. The fish are about 10 pounds each. No one knows yet how many escaped. But Ron Warren, fish program assistant director for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the net had some 3 million pounds of fish in it when it imploded Saturday.
Warren said the spill was caused by tides pushed unusually high by Monday’s approaching total solar eclipse.
The department has been monitoring the situation and crafting a spill-response plan with Cooke.
Lummi fishers were incensed at the Atlantic salmon intruding in home waters of native Washington Pacific salmon. “It’s a devastation,” said Ellie Kinley, whose family has fished Puget Sound for generations. “We don’t want those fish preying on our baby salmon. And we don’t want them getting up in the rivers.”
G.I. James, a member of the Lummi Natural Resources staff and fish commission, said Pacific salmon face enough trouble as it is without dueling with invaders in their home waters. “It is potentially a disease issue, and impact on our fish, as dire a shape as they are in, right now any impact to them is difficult to absorb.”