Cooke Fact Check

Cooke Aquaculture is a Canadian company which owns 100% of TASSAL

Before . . . and after
Before . . . and after

Salmon pen collapse

  • On August 19, 2017, a Cooke Aquaculture open-net pen salmon farm in Puget Sound collapsed. Roughly 250,000 alien Atlantic salmon were released into waters containing endangered Pacific salmon. The company blamed the incident on natural causes (including a solar eclipse!). But an investigation by three Washington State agencies concluded that the entire farm had broken apart because it had not been properly maintained by Cooke. The pens were fouled with impenetrable layers of mussels, kelp, and other marine growth. The investigators also found that the company significantly understated the number of escaped fish. Source: 2018 Report by Washington state Depts of Ecology, Fish and Wildlife, and Natural Resources, viewed online 5 june 2023.
  • The company was fined USD $332,000 and some of its leases were cancelled. In response to the disaster at Cooke's net pen, the State of Washington banned the farming of non-native fish like Atlantic salmon in its waters. Source: FishfarmingExpert, 24 February 2018, and Smithsonian Magazine, 28 March 2018, both viewed online 5 June 2023.
  • Cooke Aquaculture later paid USD $2.75 million to settle a civil lawsuit brought by a nonprofit organization, Wild Fish Conservancy. Source: Seattle Times 29 November 2019. Viewed online 5 june 2023.

Illegal pesticide use

  • Cooke Aquaculture subsidiary Kelly Cove Salmon has been ordered to pay $500,000 after pleading guilty to two charges in connection with the deaths of hundreds of lobsters in the Bay of Fundy from an illegal pesticide about three years ago.
  • The penalty is the largest ever imposed in New Brunswick for environmental violations under the federal Fisheries Act, according to an Environment Canada official.
  • The company was fined $100,000. It was also ordered to pay $350,000 to the University of New Brunswick's environmental studies program and an additional $50,000 in trust to the environmental damages fund.

Source: CBC News, 27 April 2013, viewed online 5 June 2023.

Water pollution

  • Cooke Aquaculture Pacific has been fined $8,000 by the Washington Department of Ecology for repeatedly polluting the water at its net fish pen facility on the south end of Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound. Cooke had repeatedly cleaned dirty equipment on its Fort Ward dock on Rich Passage since last summer, violating state law that protects water quality. Officials said the fine followed two warning letters, multiple phone calls to the company, and a notice of violation.

Source: FishfarmingExpert, 24 February 2018, viewed online 5 June 2023.

Animal cruelty

  • In October 2019, an animal-rights organization released a video from the Cooke Aquaculture hatchery in Bingham, Maine. An undercover investigator for the group, Animal Outlook, had spent four months working at the hatchery, where she recorded the brutal treatment of young salmon by workers. The organization filed a complaint with the State of Maine, which did not lead to any action against the company.

The Animal Outlook video is here (may cause distress), and also on our Videos page.

Illegal control of US fishing fleet, possible US$2 billion fine
  • A lawsuit filed in 2021 and recently unsealed claims Cooke Inc. violated U.S. law when it acquired Omega Protein in 2017. If the suit succeeds, the Canada-based firm could be liable for up to USD 2 billion in fines for exceeding foreign ownership requirements for domestic U.S. fishing fleets. The lawsuit alleges Cooke is committing "figurehead fraud" by controlling a large fleet of fishing vessels based in the U.S. The lawsuit alleges that when Cooke acquired Omega Protein, it placed ownership of the vessels under Ocean Harvesters, which is 80 percent owned by Seth Dunlop, a U.S. citizen and nephew of Cooke Owner Glenn Cooke.

    The suit alleges the arrangement has illegally allowed Cooke to retain control, and further, that the deal was concealed from the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD).

Source: Seafood Source, 16 May 2024 viewed online 17 May 2024.

And now the Tasmanian industry is fully foreign owned . . .

  • The Australia Institute has released an analysis of how very little tax the salmon industry pays, and points out that it will be increasingly hard to find these statistics. They also discuss how exaggerated and unsupported industry employment claims are. Read their analysis here.

Now read the JBS Fact Check

"Want to hold Cooke to account?"