OLYMPIA – The state would phase out all fish farming of non-native species in an attempt to ensure the continued survival of native salmon under a bill that passed the House on Wednesday.
In response to a net pen failure last summer near Tacoma that released tens of thousands of Atlantic salmon into the Puget Sound, the bill would prevent the renewal of all leases after they expire.
Opponents said there isn’t strong evidence to show the fish farms hurt native species and that the bill would cost jobs.
Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, said he wanted to see more scientific data before the Legislature banned the net pens. “Maybe we would make the same decision, but I think it’s way early,” he said.
Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, said although the bill may cost jobs, he was not ready to risk the salmon runs that are already too near extinction to deal with another threat.
“I’ve never felt worse about a vote,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever knowingly voted for a bill that is going to cost jobs, and it’s painful.”
Both parties should work on substantive legislation to ensure future salmon runs and avoid a “fight to the death,” Wilcox said.
Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, said the bill would not negatively affect jobs.
“This bill sets up a process where all current permits continue,” he said. “While those permits continue the men and women working for this company will go to work every day.”
The bill now goes to the Senate, which has passed its own bill that eventually would end all leases for net pens containing non-native fish.
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