Cooke Aquaculture Pacific, LLC (“Cooke”) has filed a motion in the Superior Court of the State of Washington for a preliminary injunction against the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”) and Hilary Franz, the Commissioner of Public Lands, to secure a reasonable timeframe to safely harvest 360,000 rainbow trout and remove equipment at the Rich Passage and Hope Island fish farms in Puget Sound.
This preliminary injunction is being sought today to protect Cooke and its employees and is in addition to the complaint Cooke filed on December 14, 2022, to appeal the lease renewal denial, and the lawsuit filed against DNR by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe on December 16, 2022, to protect their sovereign rights in response to Franz banning sustainable marine net-pen aquaculture.
Cooke operates its farm sites according to carefully coordinated farm management plans, with employee safety being its top priority. Significant changes in harvest schedules can both increase safety risks for employees and disruptions for customers. The arbitrary timelines set forth in Hilary Franz’s politically motivated executive action are impossible to meet without exposing Cooke employees to dangerous winter working conditions, increasing perceived environmental risks, and causing significant financial harm.
Cooke shared these concerns with DNR, but the Department was unwilling to adjust its demands. On November 23, 2022, DNR declined Cooke’s request for a reasonable amount of time to harvest fish and remove the equipment from the water. DNR arbitrarily agreed to give Cooke 31 additional days to harvest all the fish by January 14, 2023 and remove all the equipment by April 14, 2023.
Cooke has repeatedly explained to DNR why these deadlines pose safety risks to its employees, risks to the environment, and risk of financial loss in the form of destroyed crops. Despite additional communications on December 14, 2022, DNR again arbitrarily ignored these explanations leaving Cooke no alternative but to seek injunctive relief.
The requested injunctive relief is necessary to ensure that Cooke can safely and responsibly take the necessary actions if it is required to close its operations at Hope Island and Rich Passage. Cooke is seeking what is only reasonable to expect from DNR: the time to do things right. The Court hearing is scheduled for January 6, 2023.
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