Cooke Aquaculture has been granted a preliminary injunction giving the company more time to harvest the fish and dismantle equipment at its last two sites in Washington State.
The injunction was granted by the Superior Court of the State of Washington after Cooke filed a motion against the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”) and Hilary Franz, the Commissioner of Public Lands. After announcing that Cooke’s leases at Rich Passage and Hope Island, in Puget Sound, would not be renewed, the DNR had ordered the company to dismantle the two fish farms by 14 April, and to harvest all remaining fish by 14 January.
Cooke said, following the court ruling: “Cooke operates its farm sites according to carefully coordinated farm management plans, with employee safety being its top priority. Significant changes in harvest schedules can both increase safety risks for employees and disruptions for customers. The arbitrary timelines originally set forth by DNR were impossible to meet without exposing Cooke employees to dangerous winter working conditions, increasing perceived environmental risks, and causing significant financial harm.
“Cooke sought this preliminary injunction to protect its employees and ensure safe working conditions. We are grateful that the Court granted our request as this extension gives our employees the flexibility required in a marine environment to ensure safe working conditions. Cooke can now remove the fish on its original harvest schedule and properly remove our equipment without subjecting employees to unnecessary risk.”
An appeal is also in process against the decision not to renew the leases. Meanwhile the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, which is based on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, is bringing a separate lawsuit to get the DNR’s state-wide ban overturned.
Ron Allen, CEO and Tribal Chairman of the tribe, said: “As a tribe, we have always been conscientious stewards of our natural environment and look seven generations ahead in all that we do. Modern, well-regulated aquaculture is the environmentally responsible solution for producing seafood and exercising our tribal treaty rights – now and into the future.”