Washington state lawmakers voted to ban Atlantic salmon net pen farming, an industry that has operated in the state for three decades.

The new law will end state leases and permits for operations that grow non-native fish when current leases expire in 2022.

The backlash stems from last summer’s escape of at least 160,000 Atlantic salmon from a neglected net pen operated by Canadian-based Cooke Aquaculture. A report issued by the state called the escaped Atlantics a threat to native stocks and waters.  

Speaking of non-native stocks – Alaska lawmakers are backing the push to slap labels on Frankenfish.

Representative Geran Tarr of Anchorage, speaking at a hearing last week, sponsored a joint resolution –

“And the question that leads us to having this resolution before us today and in support of Sen Murkowski’s work, is how does the introduction of this gm salmon, absent labeling, so a consumer can know if they are getting the wild Alaska product or a gm product. How will that undermine people’s confidence in our product.”  

The so called AquaAdvantage salmon is genetically modified to grow three times faster than the real varieties.  After a 25 year push, it got FDA approval in 2015, the first GM animal ever approved for human consumption.

But a legislative block by Senator Murkowski has meant no sale in the U.S. until the manmade fish is labeled.

 “The FDA –  to allow for the first time ever this genetically engineered salmon for human consumption, then at a bare minimum you’ve got to stick a label on it that says so.   This experiment I think puts at risk the health of our fisheries not only in Alaska, but throughout the Pacific Northwest.” 

A legal trade loophole might make a Frankenfish risk more immediate.

The GM fish is hatched in Canada, grown out in Panama and up till last year, it faced an import ban until labeling was in place. But that language is not included in Trump’s FY 19 budget. If it is not reinserted, the GM salmon could get a green light to enter the US.

The US Dept. of Agriculture has until July 29 to publish regulations that will define whether and how to label genetically modified foods.

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