Organic Consumers Association

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'Environmental Nightmare' After Thousands of Atlantic Salmon Escape Fish Farm

Commercial fishing boats are scrambling to catch as many Atlantic salmon as they can after a net pen broke near Washington's Cypress Island. Fishers reported thousands of the non-native fish jumping in the water or washing ashore.

A fish farm's net pen failed Saturday afternoon when an anchor pulled loose and metal walkways twisted about. Onlookers said it looked like hurricane debris.

The pen, in the state's northwestern San Juan Islands, contained about 305,000 Atlantic salmon. Now, owner Cooke Aquaculture and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are trying to determine how many escaped.

Kurt Beardslee, the director of the Wild Fish Conservancy Northwest, called the escape an "environmental nightmare."

Department officials blamed the structure failure on high tides caused by the eclipse — but that explanation is being questioned because tidal waters had been higher in July.

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