After the Alaska Department of Natural Resources ordered the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association to move its Tutka Bay release site either to the location it specified in its permit or back to its Tutka Bay Lagoon hatchery, mother nature seemed to make the decision for the hatchery association.
Cook Inlet Aquaculture Executive Director Gary Fandrei said strong winds blew the pens about three miles west of where they were initially anchored.
“We immediately sent the boat over there to capture the pens and pull them over to the shore,” Fandrei said. “They’re now currently located right out in front of the lagoon near the hatchery.”
This latest incident comes after the Alaska Department of Natural Resources ordered Cook Inlet Aquaculture to move the pens. DNR ordered the move because the pens were installed about a mile away from the location the agency specified in its permit for the operation.
Fandrei said a charter operator notified the hatchery association that the pens were drifting freely Thursday afternoon, and he said the pens were secured near its Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery by about 10:30 p.m.
Now, the plan is to move the pens into the lagoon during the next high tide series.
“That should happen tonight or tomorrow, but we would like that to happen as quickly as possible,” Fandrei explained. “They will be secured to the net pen complex, and that’s where they will remain.”
Fandrei said the roughly 2 million fish that were in the pens survived the incident.
Placing the pens at the head of Tutka Bay has been controversial. This was the first year Cook Inlet Aquaculture was able to raise fish at the head of the bay.
It’s permit for the release site will also expire this year. Fandrei has said the hatchery association will likely ask state and federal agencies to renew its permits for the net pens.