Empty Net Pen Structure In Columbia River Washed To Sea; Pieces Being Found On Shore

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife last Friday (Jan. 10) was working to locate and retrieve an empty net pen structure that came unmoored along the Columbia River one day earlier, but severe weather hampered search efforts.

By the weekend, the structure had washed out to sea and pieces are now washing up on Oregon and Washington shores, said WDFW Thursday.

WDFW is asking the public to report any sightings of pieces of the net pen structure.

The net pen frame has not contained any fish since 2018, and has no netting or mesh attached to the structure. It is not considered to be a threat to fish or wildlife.

The WDFW-owned, empty net pen frame was first spotted in the Columbia River around 2 p.m. Thursday. WDFW staff determined it had originated near the Cathlamet Marina, where it had been moored since 2018. It was last spotted by WDFW staff near Chinook, Washington shortly before 4 p.m. Thursday.

WDFW was able to launch a vessel from Cape Disappointment to search for the net pen Thursday evening, but called off the search around 8 p.m. due to inclement weather and darkness. WDFW also requested help from the Coast Guard and asked the commercial crabbing fleet to report any sightings of the net pen structure.

The structure was approximately 90 feet long by 60 feet wide. It was an array of eight individual pens lashed together, and is made primarily of PVC or HDPE piping, with wooden decking around the outer perimeter.

WDFW is investigating how the empty net pen frame became unmoored.

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