Seattle, WA – Alaska’s Bristol Bay salmon fishery is winding down, with fishermen already having harvested well over 15 million sockeye salmon. Meanwhile, thousands of grocery stores are telling their customers about Bristol Bay sockeye, the world’s largest sustainable salmon run – and the threat that hangs over the salmon resource of Bristol Bay.
The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA) has partnered with leading national retailers and chefs to raise awareness about Bristol Bay sockeye, about the commercial fishing families who harvest the world largest salmon run, and about the threat to their businesses posed by the proposed Pebble Mine.
Fisherman Matt Marinkovich has run a fishing boat in Bristol Bay since 1993. “In all those years this is the largest, most far-reaching effort I've seen to connect Bristol Bay fishermen directly with retailers and top chefs, and really educate consumers about the amazing fish we catch here. This is the world’s greatest food, and it’s about time American consumers heard about it!”
The proposed Pebble Mine threatens critical salmon spawning and rearing habitat in the headwaters of Bristol Bay. Starting this month, over 3,200 retailers will be promoting Bristol Bay sockeye at their seafood counters with custom point of sale materials urging customers “to protect wild salmon for the future by eating one today.” Promotional materials include posters, recipe cards, stickers, ice-spears and brochures.
Meanwhile, 80 top restaurants across the country are hosting a rolling wave of dinner events featuring Bristol Bay sockeye. Chefs are showcasing their creativity and commitment to Bristol Bay with events ranging from one-night special tasting menus and month-long specials to ‘dinner and a movie’ screenings of the Bristol Bay documentary, Red Gold. These events were coordinated in partnership with Chef’s Collaborative a national network that educates seafood buyers and chefs about sustainable seafood.
Chef Kevin Davis of Seattle’s Blueacre Seafood is one of the participating chefs. “I am a huge fan of Bristol Bay sockeye. This is a beautiful fish, we love to serve it, and it is a crime against nature that anyone would consider building a copper mine where these fish reproduce year after year.”
BBRSDA Executive Director Bob Waldrop emphasized the connection between sustainable salmon and sustainable jobs. “We have two messages, really – two goals. First, we want people to understand that thousands of independently owned fishing businesses are involved in this highly successful and completely sustainable salmon fishery. We are proud beyond words to be the current stewards of this amazing natural resource. And second, that Bristol Bay’s salmon runs and our livelihoods are under direct threat from a large-scale copper mine that can still be stopped. We need people to be aware of that and we need them to take action.”
On June 30, the EPA closed its second public comment period regarding the latest draft of its risk assessment of large-scale open-pit mining in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska. Specifically addressed in the assessment are the likely scenarios that would result from the realization of the yet-to-be formally proposed but heavily researched and planned Pebble Mine at the headwaters of the Nushagak and Kvichak Rivers, the two most prolific wild salmon rivers in the world.
Earthworks confirmed that more than 100 jewelers, representing more than $6 billion in annual sales, have pledged their support to protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay from the proposed Pebble Mine. The jewelers have either issued comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or signed the Bristol Bay Protection Pledge citing Earthworks' findings that the gold and copper mine would destroy the world’s largest wild salmon fishery in the area. The EPA extended its public comment period on the Pebble Mine until June 30.
The battle lines are being drawn for what is becoming one of America's largest natural-resources fights in decades, pitting the mining industry against defenders of a way of life and an economy that are inextricably linked to one of the United States' most intact and productive ecosystems.
Alaska and Washington, children of a common ancestor.
Long before Alaska gained statehood in 1959, Washington was economically and politically hitched to the last wilderness. When Sen. Warren Magnuson was defeated in 1980, the joke was given expression: Alaska had just lost its third senator, folks said.
I've spent the last 30 years building a family business around the Bristol Bay, Alaska, salmon fishery, making the aluminum boats that fishermen use to harvest fish from the world's greatest sockeye salmon run.
While southwestern Alaska may seem far off, many people in Washington state understand the deep economic ties between Bristol Bay and the Puget Sound. Just recently, a new economic report produced by the University of Alaska found that the Bristol Bay salmon fishery is worth $1.5 billion in total value and produces nearly 6 percent of all U.S. seafood export value. The fishery employs more than 12,000 people in fishing and processing, concentrated most heavily in Alaska, Washington and Oregon. And another nearly 8,000 jobs across the country are tied to the fishery in industries like grocery retailing, canning, warehousing and restaurants.
All of this economic bounty comes from the world's largest sockeye salmon run, which averages 37 million fish a year and feeds people around the globe.
To me, the numbers in the economic report aren't just statistics. I first started building aluminum gillnet boats in 1978, and I worked hard to build All American Marine. Although I sold the company last year, it employs 50 people, and my new business, Strongback Metal Boats, now employs seven people.
But, the jobs and revenue of Bristol Bay don't stop at my employees and what they spend in Whatcom County. To build our boats, we also order products and services from other vendors and specialists, ordering nuts and bolts and other parts, subcontracting electricians and hydraulic work, purchasing jet pumps from a supplier in Arkansas and engines from a Seattle vendor. Put another way, a lot of people and businesses are affected by one boat, and in the case of Bristol Bay, a rising tide lifts all boats. In Washington there are dozens of small businesses like my own that are tied to the Bristol Bay salmon fishery and directly support hundreds of skilled labor jobs.
Read the full story at Bellingham Herald>>
When the delegates to Alaska's Constitutional Convention gathered in Fairbanks during the cold November of 1955, they set out to craft what they knew would be an experimental document. Their work proved exceptional and has stood the test of time — our constitution expresses Alaskan values, imbued with the concept of an owner-state and mandated development of Alaska's resources.
In many ways, Alaska was — and still is — a grand experiment. But our founding mothers and fathers would almost certainly not approve of the ways in which Alaska's resources are now being experimented with, turning our valuable fishing and mining industries into a Petri dish for foreign developers to test their new technologies.
Before we go any further, let's be clear: We are lifelong conservatives. Mark works an oil job on the North Slope, and Doug is a year-round commercial fisherman and mariner working both in the fisheries and in the oil industry. We both fish Bristol Bay in the summers and are passionately pro-responsible development. Heck, Mark's snowmachined the Iron Dog three times and Doug has been working on offshore oil exploration in the Arctic for the last four years. Let's put it this way, we both drive pickup trucks and don't hug trees. We're proud of that. And we are also proud to oppose Pebble Mine.
Raising our families in Alaska, we understand the need for a stable economic future here. The future of our state depends on good decision-making now.
The Bristol Bay fishery supports a rich culture and directly employs some 14,000-plus individuals. In fact, Alaska's fisheries collectively remain the largest employer in the state — creating even more jobs than our crucial oil and gas industry. Our fisheries are the envy of the world. A recent study showed an annual input into the American economy of $1.5 billion dollars from Bristol Bay. With Pebble's suggested 50-to-100-year extraction scenario, it's proposed development creates a large risk with little return for our state and our nation.
Read the full story at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner>>
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