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Ecology and salmon related articles

Three Months After the Fish Farm Collapse,
Guess Where Atlantic Salmon are Being Found

by Kimberly Cauvel
Skagit Valley Herald, August 30, 2017

Atlantic salmon escaped from this Cooke Aquaculture net pen over the weekend off Cypress Island. This photo was taken Tuesday morning, August 22, 2017. (Beau Garreau / DAKO. 5TUDIOS) More than three months after being released during the collapse of a fish farm near Cypress Island, Atlantic salmon are being caught about 40 miles up the Skagit River.

"Virtually every time we have done work in the river we have encountered Atlantics along the way," Upper Skagit Indian Tribe Natural Resources Director Scott Schuyler said.

Since the Aug. 20 collapse, Schuyler said Upper Skagit fishermen and fisheries crews have caught the nonnative fish in Mount Vernon, near Lyman and east of Hamilton while pursuing native salmon.

Most recently, a crew gathering chum to stock the tribal hatchery caught dozens of the farm-raised fish east of Hamilton, about 40 miles from the mouth of the Skagit River.

On Thursday, the tribe caught more Atlantic salmon than chum – a ratio of 6 to 4 – in the quarter-mile area of the river used for the hatchery work.

"The concern is that if we're catching this many Atlantic salmon in this small area of the river, it's not a stretch to assume they are upstream in spawning areas and interfering with wild fish," Schuyler said.

Their presence in the Skagit River system suggests that while Cooke Aquaculture, the company that owns the collapsed farm, said the farmed fish would not survive outside their net pens, some are alive and mingling with Pacific salmon.

The question is how many.

Of 305,000 fish in the farm before it collapsed, about 102,000 remained unaccounted for as of Oct. 1, according to catch totals from various groups.

Cooke spokeswoman Nell Halse said the company isn't entirely sure the fish the tribe is catching are Atlantic salmon from its collapsed farm.

"Our investigation is ongoing so we can't provide more information at this time," she said in an email.

State Department of Fish & Wildlife spokesman Bruce Botka said the agency last received a report of sport fishermen catching Atlantic salmon Nov. 14.

If the nonnative fish are now infiltrating salmon spawning grounds in the upper Skagit River, tribes and others are anxious about how the Atlantic salmon will affect the already imperiled wild Pacific salmon in the river.

"It still raises the question ... How do they interact with the wild fish? Is there displacement happening?" Schuyler said.

Related Pages:
Salmon Fisher: Spill is Dangerous and 'We Shouldn't Have To Deal With It' by Laurel Dalrymple, All Things Considered, 8/30/17
An End to Fish Farming by Mandi Johnson, Island's Sounder, 8/30/17
'Environmental Nightmare' After Thousands of Atlantic Salmon Escape Fish Farm by Courtney Flatt, Northwest Public Radio, 8/24/17
Questions Remain after Farmed Salmon Escape into Sound by Jacqueline Allison, Go Anacortes, 8/30/17
Ban Atlantic Salmon Farming in Washington Waters by David R. Montgomery, All Things Considered, 8/29/17
'Environmental Nightmare' After Thousands of Atlantic Salmon Escape Fish Farm by Courtney Flatt, Northwest Public Radio, 8/24/17


Kimberly Cauvel
Three Months After the Fish Farm Collapse, Guess Where Atlantic Salmon are Being Found
Skagit Valley Herald, August 30, 2017

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