Submitted Tim Ballew II, chairman of the Lummi Nation
Editor’s note: Cooke Aquaculture released thousands of Atlantic salmon, an invasive species, into the Salish Sea on the weekend of Aug. 19. In an Oct. 4 press release, company officials stated they had concluded their “initial stage of response.”
Cooke [Aquaculture representative were] incapable of recovering all of their invasive fish stock so tribes stepped in to protect our treaty fishing waters. Since then, we have also been active observers of the company’s response. There is still a long way to go to even begin to repair the damage done to our tribal fishery by a faulty net pen that should never have been used to hold non-native species in our waters.
The company may have offered to recoup some of the costs of recovery, but you can never put a price on our treaty rights. Our treaty protects our right to fish because it is inseparable from who we are as Lummi people. What the Cooke Aquaculture fails to mention is that the company was unable to clean up the mess they created. If it were not for our fisherman, it is likely the spill would have been much worse.
As observers of Cooke’s response, we have been deeply disappointed by the company’s failure to fully and immediately cooperate with the state department of ecology in its request to interview Cooke staff members. Weeks have passed which could make the information the state gains from these interviews significantly less valuable. The company should right this wrong immediately.
Salmon are integral to our culture and our survival. A recovery effort that leaves more than 100,000 invasive fish in our treaty-protected waters can hardly be considered a successful or adequate response.