Massive number of Atlantic salmon escape fish farm near Bellingham

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      The Seattle Times has reported that a net with three million pounds of fish "imploded" near Cypress Island southwest of Bellingham.

      The Cooke Aquaculture fish-farm pen contained 305,000 Atlantic salmon, and many escaped into the nearby waters. (See map below.)

      The company has blamed very high tides coinciding with a solar eclipse.

      The nonprofit group Puget Sound Keeper's executive director, Chris Wike, has called that "B.S."

      In the meantime, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is urging the public to catch as many of the silver-sided Atlantic salmon as possible. Each weighs about 10 pounds.

      "Our first concern, of course, is to protect native fish species," WDWF fish program head Ron Warren said in a news release.

      He added that there is "no evidence that these fish pose a threat to native fish populations, either through disease or crossbreeding with Pacific salmon".

      "It will be some time before we know how many fish escaped the net pens," Warren added. "That's why we've authorized Cooke Aquaculture to fish with beach seine nets and we're encouraging anglers to go out and harvest these fish."

      Cooke Aquaculture is reportedly planning to place a net-pen fish farm in Port Angeles across Juan de Fuca Strait from Victoria.

      Industry critics, such as B.C.'s Alexandra Morton, have often said that escapes of Atlantic salmon threaten the health of wild Pacific salmon.

      Cypress Island is on the eastern edge of the San Juan Islands.