Need a good excuse to spend the day fishing? The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has you covered.
On Aug. 19, an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 10-pound farmed Atlantic salmon escaped into the waters of Puget Sound after a pen holding some 305,000 of the species suffered a structural failure. In an effort to protect native species, WDFW officials are urging everyone to hit the water and catch as many of the escaped salmon as possible.
"It will be some time before we know how many fish escaped the net pens," Ron Warren, head of WDFW's Fish Program, said in a statement. "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."
Despite Warren's assurances that the species poses no threat to native fish populations, he doesn't want to take any chances.
"Catch as many as you want,” he told the Seattle Times. "We don’t want anything competing with our natural populations. We have never seen a successful crossbreeding with Atlantic salmon, but we don’t want to test the theory."
In a rather bizarre twist, officials from Cooke Aquaculture fish farm where the Atlantic salmon were raised placed the blame for the damaged nets on "exceptionally high tides and currents coinciding with this week’s solar eclipse." While the alignment of the sun and moon, called a spring tide, does in fact cause high tides, there's nothing uncommon about them. As some pointed out, the excuse just doesn't hold water.
"So either Cooke's placement of blame on eclipse tides indicates a gross failure to plan for a predictable natural event, or it's a load of BS," Chase Gunnell of Conservation Northwest, wrote on Facebook. "Those of us who fish in this area know how to read a tide-table in advance, know the winter and spring king tides are far stronger than those experienced this weekend, eclipse or no, and know that strong currents are the norm in this marine area."
"This was operator error, and the operator needs to be held accountable, especially as they have proposed to expand these Atlantic salmon net pens around our region," he added.
While there is no size or catch limit on Atlantic salmon, you will need a current fishing license. Oddly, anglers will not have to report Atlantic salmon on their catch record cards, making it unclear how exactly the WDFW plans to track the removal effort.
More information on additional regulations concerning the open season on farmed Atlantic salmon can be found here.