Mar 14, 2024 | News | Return to News

Cooke Aquaculture Pacific, LLC (“Cooke”) has filed a motion with the Superior Court of the State of Washington to dismiss its appeal against the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”) seeking reinstatement of Cooke’s leases at the Rich Passage and Hope Island steelhead trout fish farms in Puget Sound.

This action was initially commenced by Cooke in response to DNR’s refusal to allow enough time to safely harvest its fish and remove farming equipment from the water following DNR’s arbitrary and punitive lease renewal denials in 2022. Cooke is grateful that in January 2023 Judge Indu Thomas of the Superior Court of the State of Washington swiftly enjoined DNR from enforcing unrealistic deadlines without endangering its employees.

As a result of DNR Commissioner Hilary Franz’s arbitrary decision, over 100 Washington fish farming professionals including farm managers, veterinarians, hatchery technicians, truck drivers, processing plant workers and vessel crew have since been forced out of their jobs by Franz following the baseless closure of locally established fish farms.

The Rich Passage and Hope Island fish farms were present at the same locations for more than 40 years, with scientific studies and monitoring data consistently showing that the farms did not have an adverse impact on the environment. In 2019, The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife approved Cooke’s five-year trout farming permit after conducting an extensive review under the Environmental Policy Act.

Since the injunction was issued against DNR in January 2023, Cooke has endeavored to obtain public records from DNR that it believes are needed to allow for a fair appeal hearing before the Court on the issue of whether DNR properly denied Cooke’s lease applications.

Despite the request being pending for almost a year, DNR refused to work with Cooke on the timeline to provide records and has never provided any substantive responses that would allow Cooke to explain to the Court the arbitrary basis for the lease denials. Based on the number of records that DNR claims are responsive to Cooke’s request, at the rate DNR has produced records to date, it would take another six to seven years for all responsive records to be produced by DNR which is an untenable and inconceivable situation.

A further hearing on this matter is futile without Cooke having an opportunity to review DNR’s internal records and ensure the record before the Court is complete. Such a hearing would be a waste of judicial resources and everyone’s time, therefore, Cooke has filed a motion to dismiss its appeal.

Marine aquaculture farming is one of the healthiest and most efficient ways to feed the population with minimal environmental impact, the lowest freshwater use and the lowest carbon footprint of any animal protein.

Aquaculture farming and the associated supply chain are a vital part of job creation and domestic food production needed to curb a massive seafood deficit where 90% of seafood consumed in the United States is imported. Wild fish catches cannot meet the projected demand for seafood, and aquaculture is essential to preserving wild fisheries. As such, Cooke continues to work with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and pursuing projects that allow the Tribe to provide for its people and that foster sustainable seafood production on the Olympic Peninsula.

Cooke’s core purpose is to “cultivate the ocean with care, nourish the world, provide for our families, and build stronger communities.”


Joel Richardson
Vice President Public Relations
Cooke Aquaculture Inc. / for Cooke Aquaculture Pacific LLC
40 Wellington Row, Saint John, NB, Canada  E2L 3H3
+1-506-694-4939 office / +1-506-721-1093 mobile