(Canadian Press photo)

20,000 farmed Atlantic salmon company says escaped due to eclipse now caught

Salmon had escaped a fish farm just south of U.S.-Canada border

A native American band says its anglers have caught about 20,000 fish following the collapse of a commercial net pen rearing farmed Atlantic salmon in Puget Sound.

The Lummi Nation say its fishermen have brought in about 90,700 kilograms of the non-native species since it declared a state of emergency Thursday.

READ: Thousands of U.S. salmon escape near B.C., company blames solar eclipse

Cooke Aquaculture’s marine salmon farm in the San Juan Islands off Washington state failed over a week ago, releasing thousands of farmed Atlantic salmon into waters.

Band and state officials have urged people catch as many as possible.

On Saturday, Gov. Jay Inslee directed the Department of Ecology to put on hold any new permits for net pens.

State officials also announced the formation of a response team comprised of the departments of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, Ecology, the Office of the Governor and Emergency Management Division.

It’s not yet clear how many non-native Atlantic salmon escaped into Puget Sound from New Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture’s salmon farm off Cypress Island. Officials say the pens held about 305,000 fish.

Cooke Aquaculture has said high tides and currents damaged the salmon farm and led to the escape of fish.

The release at Cooke Aquaculture’s facility comes as the company is proposing a new expanded commercial facility in the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Washington.

The company operates five salmon farms in Washington that it acquired last year, and would build 14 floating circular net pens about 1.6 kilometres offshore. It would move current operations from Port Angeles Harbor and increase production by 20 per cent. The project is in the permitting phase.

But Inslee’s directive halting new permits for net pens appears to put that project in jeopardy.

Washington has the largest marine finfish aquaculture industry in the U.S. with farms producing more than 7,000 tonnes of Atlantic salmon each year, the state says.

The Associated Press

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