Salmonfest, formerly Salmonstock, has, for 10 years, been working with organizations on the front lines in the struggle to protect and preserve Bristol Bay, the largest wild salmon fishery in the world. Protecting Bristol Bay is popular in Alaska with over 60% of Alaskans opposing Pebble Mine. Why? Because healthy fish and wildlife habitat are intrinsically linked to healthy human habitat. Water filtration, flood mitigation, food chain productivity are just some of the elements that emerge from a healthy ecosystem. Natural resource economists have estimated the value of healthy ecosystems at trillions of dollars. In other words, a healthy ecosystem is priceless as well as essential to our families, communities, and economies.
Despite the fact that in 2014 the EPA issued the Proposed Determination to enact Section 404 (c) that would provide protections for the Bristol Bay watershed, the issue was, after a series of lawsuits and rulings by the Trump administration, back in the public arena in 2018. Despite the fact that the EPA received over a million comments in favor of implementing and upholding Bristol Bay and watershed restrictions, EPA Director Scott Pruitt announced the suspension of the 404 (c) Proposed Determination.
Pebble Partnership thus ramped up its permitting process and filed an application with the Army Corps Of Engineers. Nevertheless, the EPA’s Section 404 (c) authority remains on the table. (The proposed Pebble Mine will generate 10 billion tons of toxic mine waste that will have to be treated for thousands of years, an obvious absurdity and ultimate disaster waiting to happen.
This mine waste and the entire Pebble project is a direct and existential threat to the dynamic wild salmon habitat and annual runs that are at the heart of the Yup’ik, Dena’ina, and Alutiiq cultures. Pebble Mine will undermine their traditional way of life that has been sustained on the lands, rivers, and waters of the regions for 10,000 years. In addition, the Bristol Bay fishery provides a healthy and sustainable source of wild salmon that remarkably supplies up to 40% of the world’s sockeye/red salmon market. The Bristol Bay salmon fishery is the economic engine of the entire region and generates an estimated $1.5 Billion in revenue as well as supporting over 14,000 jobs. Moreover, Alaska is responsible for 75% of the seafood consumed in the U.S. and is worth $16 billion annually. It also creates 100,000 U.S. jobs and is a crucial source of protein providing 12.9 billion servings to hungry populations each year.