National Fisherman


The next swipe at the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska may not survive the political shell game.

Bristol Bay fishermen are concerned about the future of their salmon run and fighting the prospect of a gold and copper mine that could sully pristine salmon-spawning waters. But Alaska's attorney general, Michael Geraghty, has taken another tack in this epic battle and is now fighting the EPA assessment that could declare an end to development of the watershed.

Geraghty notes that the area EPA is investigating (and could declare a protected watershed) is about the size of West Virginia — 15 million acres — and that the work is an overreach of the federal agency's powers. But the federal government did not step on Alaska soil waving a flag of national sovereignty. Thousands of stakeholders in Bristol Bay's future asked EPA to step in and put a stop to the drumbeat toward Pebble.

I'm not a proponent of dragging the federal government into every major state kerfuffle. But it seems to me that the people who fish in the state of Alaska (and have for generations) ought to be able to rely on the local government to ensure the longevity of the run wherever possible.

Instead, the state seems to favor risking the riches of the fishery in favor of the riches of the mine. It's like taking a hammer to the piggy bank, rather than popping its cork and shaking free the loose change.

Gold and silver mining would provide a sudden influx of money to the region, but the deposits are finite. The salmon fishery could last forever, if we have the foresight to protect it.

Inside the Industry

The following was released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources on Jan. 22:

The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced an emergency regulation that will support the continued rebuilding effort in Maine’s scallop fishery. The rule, effective January 23, 2016, will close the Muscle Ridge Area near South Thomaston and the Western Penobscot Bay Area.

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Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which governs commercial and recreational fishing in the state, got a new boss in January. Charlie Melancon, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislator, was appointed to the job by the state’s new governor, John Bel Edwards.

Although much of his non-political work in the past has centered on the state’s sugar cane industry, Melancon said he is confident that other experience, including working closely with fishermen when in Congress, has prepared him well for this new challenge.

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