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Cooke Aquaculture is in big trouble over this breakage. The Puget Sound is home to endangered chinook salmon. State, federal and tribal governments have been trying for decades to get the population back to healthy levels. Releasing 5,000 farmed Atlantic salmon into the area could spell disaster for the native chinook population.

The farmed Atlantic salmon will now be competing with the chinooks for food. They could also introduce diseases that the chinooks are not immune to.

By Katherine Ripley

On Aug. 19, around 4 p.m., 5,000 salmon escaped from Cooke Aquaculture, an aquaculture farm in the Puget Sound in Washington. There have been some anecdotal accounts of animals behaving strangely in response to the solar eclipse that happened on Aug. 21. Could this salmon jailbreak have been the animals’ reaction to the impending celestial event?

Not likely.


How the Salmon Escaped

Daniel Patman / Flickr

The salmon escaped from the Cooke Aquaculture fish farm not of their own volition, but because one of the nets penning the fish broke. The company claims the net broke because of “exceptionally high tides and currents coinciding with this week’s solar eclipse.” However, there is no evidence that the eclipse caused an especially high tide.

The break did occur at high tide, but records indicate that this high tide was no higher than it has been throughout the month of August. In short, the problem was not the tide; it was the net.

Why Did Cooke Aquaculture Farm Blame the Eclipse?

UK College of Agriculture, Food & Environment / Flickr

Cooke Aquaculture is in big trouble over this breakage. The Puget Sound is home to endangered chinook salmon. State, federal and tribal governments have been trying for decades to get the population back to healthy levels. Releasing 5,000 farmed Atlantic salmon into the area could spell disaster for the native chinook population.

The farmed Atlantic salmon will now be competing with the chinooks for food. They could also introduce diseases that the chinooks are not immune to.

Cooke Aquaculture is already caught in a controversy over its plans to open another fish farm near Port Angeles, another Washington city closer to the Pacific Ocean. To avoid further damage to its reputation, the company pushed the blame for this recent ecological disaster onto the solar eclipse.

What Will Happen to the Escaped Fish?

Ilkka Jukarainen / Flickr

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is urging anglers to catch as many of the escaped Atlantic salmon as they can—finders keepers. Cooke Aquaculture will just have to take the loss.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Azula.

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By Katherine Ripley

Louie the giant lobster, who is probably 132 years old, spent 20 years in a tank in a restaurant in Long Island, New York.

By Katherine Ripley

Louie the giant lobster, who is probably 132 years old, spent 20 years in a tank in a restaurant in Long Island, New York.

It seemed like Louie would meet the same fate as all the other lobsters in the restaurant. But the owner, Butch Yamali, realized that he just couldn’t put Louie in the pot.


When Yamali purchased Peter’s Clam Bar in Hempstead, Long Island, four years ago, Louie the giant lobster was already there. No one knows for sure how old Louie is, but past reports indicate that he is probably 132 years old this year.

The world ‘s oldest lobster in captivity was probably 140.

Two weeks ago, a customer offered Yamali $1,000 to buy Louie the giant lobster, who weighs 22 pounds, and eat him at a Father’s Day feast.

But Yamali just couldn’t let anyone eat the tenacious crustacean. He decided to free him instead.

Yamali organized an official ceremony to return Louie to the wild. The town supervisor of Hempstead, Anthony Santino, attended the ceremony to grant Louie an official pardon. After Santino said a few words, Louie was released into the water near Atlantic Beach reef.

So, will Louie live happily in the wild for many more years?

Bob Bayer, executive director of the Lobster Institute in Maine, thinks so. Bayer said, “He’ll be just fine. There aren’t many predators who want to eat a big old lobster like that.”

How long can lobsters live?

Scientists don’t actually know how long lobsters are capable of living, but they do know that very large lobsters show no signs of aging. Theoretically, if a lobster never ran out of food and never got eaten by a predator, it might be able to live forever.

The largest lobster ever caught was 44 pounds. If Louie was only 22 pounds and 132, who knows how long he might live? Lobsters also retain their fertility well into old age.

So Louie may be able to find a mate and live happily ever after.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Azula.

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A Leopard shark at Crown Memorial State Beach. Sean Van Sommeran/Pelagic Shark Research Foundation

By Mia Nakaji Monnier

Hundreds of sharks have died in the waters off Northern California over the past few months, and scientists still have more questions than answers. In an article for National Geographic, Eric Simons told the story of these mysterious shark strandings through the eyes of Mark Okihiro, a senior fish pathologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

By Mia Nakaji Monnier

Hundreds of sharks have died in the waters off Northern California over the past few months, and scientists still have more questions than answers. In an article for National Geographic, Eric Simons told the story of these mysterious shark strandings through the eyes of Mark Okihiro, a senior fish pathologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.


When Okihiro and one of his graduate students found a bacteria by the name of Carnobacterium maltaromaticum in the brains of stranded thresher sharks, their discovery turned out to be one missing piece in a larger puzzle.

The same pathogen—which is found more often in the bellies of healthy salmon and trout—had recently been found in washed-up mako and salmon sharks.

Then, earlier this year, Okihiro received a leopard shark corpse in the mail.

This shark’s brain showed that it had also died of an infection—and since leopard sharks are closely related to thresher, mako and salmon sharks, Okihiro expected carnobacterium to be the culprit. But instead, the killer turned out to be a fungus.

Now, his working hypothesis is that all those sharks who appeared to have died of Carnobacterium (which is, after all, harmless to other fish) actually died of a fungal infection, possibly picked up in the stagnant waters of marshes and lagoons.

But Okihiro and his colleagues agree that more research needs to be done before they can reach this conclusion for sure. They hope to learn more about sharks’ microbiomes (the mix of microorganisms, like bacteria, that live in their bodies) so they can say with more certainty which microbes are healthy and typical for sharks, and which cause them harm.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Azula.

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