Officials: Negligence led to salmon net pen failure

State officials say Cooke Aquaculture’s failure to clean nets holding farmed salmon led to the net pen failure that released thousands of non-native salmon into Puget Sound.

Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz said Cooke’s disregard caused the disaster and that it could have been prevented. She says the company’s actions put the state’s ecosystem at risk.

Ecology Director Maia Bellon announced Tuesday that her agency was fining the company $332,000 for the Aug. 19 net pen collapse.

State officials also said Cooke underreported the number of fish that escaped into waters and over-reported how many were recovered.

Ahead of the report’s release, Cooke on Tuesday criticized the state’s investigation as incomplete and inaccurate. It also disputed its accounting of fish that escaped or were recovered.

Company vice president Joel Richardson said in a statement that Cooke was shut out of the investigative process and that led to “an inaccurate and misleading document.”