Solar eclipse-assisted tides ‘unleash thousands of Atlantic salmon’

The solar eclipse (of the century) on Monday apparently contributed to tides that unleashed thousands of 10-pound Atlantic salmon into Bellingham Bay near Cypress Island in the Washington state of USA.

Thousands of 10-pound Atlantic salmon were accidentally released into the waters between Anacortes and the San Juan Islands near Washington state, and officials are asking people to catch as many as possible. Tribal fishers, concerned about native salmon populations, call the accident “a devastation.”

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is urging the public to catch as many of the Atlantic salmon as possible, with no limit on size or number –to get them out of Washington’s waters. The rogue fish are safe to eat, the DFW said. There is no limit on the number anyone can pull in.

No one knows yet how many escaped. But Ron Warren, fish program assistant director for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the net had some 3 million pounds of fish in it when it imploded Saturday.

The department has been monitoring the situation and crafting a spill-response plan.

Anglers are being asked to help mop up the salmon spill. The imploded net was holding 305,000 fish at a Cooke Aquaculture fish farm near Cypress Island, report The Spokesman-Review.

A comment by a Cooke Aquaculture spokesman in the Times report said the solar eclipse or moon phase contributed to the escape.

Warren said the spill was caused by tides pushed unusually high by Monday’s total solar eclipse.

Local fishers were incensed at the Atlantic salmon intruding in home waters of native Washington Pacific salmon. “It’s a devastation,” said Ellie Kinley, whose family has fished for generations. “We don’t want those fish preying on our baby salmon. And we don’t want them getting up in the rivers.”

G.I. James, a member of the Lummi Natural Resources staff and fish commission, said Pacific salmon face enough trouble as it is without dueling with invaders in their home waters. “It is potentially a disease issue, and impact on our fish, as dire a shape as they are in, right now any impact to them is difficult to absorb.”

While fish farming has been banned in Alaska, California and Oregon waters, eight Atlantic salmon net pen facilities are sited in Puget Sound near Cypress Island.

Atlantic salmon, which are not indigenous to the region, escape regularly from net pen and they can compete with wild Pacific salmon of the region.

According to media reports, planned expansion of Atlantic salmon net pens in the region is being met with protest by wild fish proponents, who are organizing an anti-fish-farming flotilla in the fishing area on Sept. 16.

Net pens also are connected with the spread of parasites, viral outbreaks and pollution, said Kurt Beardslee, executive director of the Wild Fish Conservancy.

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