Science Ignored in New Anti-Aquaculture Law

OLYMPIA, Wash., March 22, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Dan Swecker, Executive Director of the Washington Fish Growers Association (WFGA), has issued the following statement regarding today’s signing into law of HB 2957 and Governor Inslee’s line item veto of Section I which calls for a scientific study.

As the leading trade association representing Washington’s multi-million-dollar finfish aquaculture industry, WFGA is deeply disappointed by Governor Inslee’s failure to take science into consideration by signing into law HB 2957. Our organization holds the position—supported by leading fisheries scientists—that this law completely lacks any scientific basis.

We are additionally dismayed by the fact that in early March of this year, a group of concerned scientists reached out to the state legislature, refuting the basis of HB 2957 and outlining the best peer-reviewed science available to date. In an Open Letter to the State Legislature, nine leading fisheries scientists challenged the key assumptions in HB 2957 having to do with purported interbreeding between Atlantics and native species, colonization, disease transfer, and competition for food. In passing HB 2957 by a 31-16 vote, it was clear that the legislature chose to ignore the science in favor of other political considerations.

After the vote, we reached out to Governor Inslee, urging him to veto HB 2957.

At the same time, the signatories to the Open Letter to the legislature requested a meeting with the Governor. While the Governor was not available to meet, a small group of scientists met with the Governor’s staff to present the science and request that the Governor veto the most troublesome sections of HB 2957 or postpone implementation until the study in Section I was completed.

By the actions taken today by Governor Inslee, it is clear that science has taken a back seat to politics in our state’s natural resources policymaking.

Our association includes many Washington subsidiaries of international companies, representing all sectors of the seafood value chain, from egg producers to feed suppliers, equipment manufacturers, vaccine companies, technology companies, and producers of freshwater species such as trout and steelhead.

We are concerned that this ill-conceived and fundamentally flawed legislation may be sending the wrong message to companies seeking to do business in Washington. 

While aquaculture in Washington state is small compared to our technology sector, aquaculture worldwide is a multi-billion business that provides much-needed protein to a growing world population. Today, aquaculture represents 60 percent of the world’s seafood supply, and those numbers are expected to continue growing. Washington state has great potential for producing sustainable aquaculture seafood, including salmon, trout, steelhead, black cod, Arctic charr, and halibut. However, today’s action by Governor Inslee signals that, while Washington State may be open for business, it will no longer be open to culture of non-native species such as Atlantic salmon, which is the primary salmon species imported to the United States.

For more information, contact:
Dan Swecker, Executive Director