I don’t love eating fish, but eat it because is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, in other words, good for the body. I do appreciate, however, how important salmon is to Alaskan culture and Southwest’s Alaska food web.
The following video was produced by Bristol Bay Forever and the Renewable Resource Foundation, conservation-minded organizations fighting to protect Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve (BBFR) and its salmon rich waters from the proposed Pebble Mine. The Pebble Mine is expected to be one of the largest mines in the world due to the area’s massive gold, copper and molybdenum deposits.
Members of these groups believe the health of the BBFR watershed would be threatened by toxic discharge from the mine. The watershed provides habitat for 29 fish species, more than 190 bird species, and more than 40 terrestrial species, including brown bears, wolves, moose and caribou. The 20-mile square area proposed for the mine is currently undeveloped wilderness with an enormous infusion of streams, rivers and estuaries.
BBFR was established in 1972 to protect the area’s salmon and other fish from the potentially toxic effects of oil and gas development. Mine development was not part of the 1972 initiative that requires “scientific proof”, signed off by the people we elect to office, that the proposed activities (oil and gas development), won’t endanger salmon and the economy built around them.”
“Because of its size, geochemistry and location, Pebble (mine) runs a high risk of polluting Bristol Bay, one of the world’s few and most productive wild salmon strongholds that supports a $500 million commercial and sport fishery,” states savebristolbay.org. “For this reason, Trout Unlimited is working with a diverse group of fishermen, guides, lodge owners, Alaska Natives, scientists, chefs, restaurant owners, seafood lovers and many others to try to stop the Pebble development and to protect Bristol Bay.”
The Pebble Mine proposal has been floating for years and is being challenged by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA). After one year of living in Juneau, I would say most Alaskans oppose Pebble. Just recently, more than 20,000 Alaskans expressed opposition to the mine and in support of the EPA’s proposed protections for the salmon-rich region of southwest Alaska.
A July 2014 report by the EPA states, “Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed is an area of unparalleled ecological value, boasting salmon diversity and productivity unrivaled anywhere in North America. As a result, the region is a globally significant resource with outstanding value. The Bristol Bay watershed provides intact, connected habitats—from headwaters to ocean—that support abundant, genetically diverse wild Pacific salmon populations. These salmon populations, in turn, maintain the productivity of the entire ecosystem, including numerous other fish and wildlife species.”
On the other hand, The Pebble Partnership, the entity proposing the Pebble Mine, states that the mine will provide jobs, economic development and valuable minerals.
“Right now, it’s an idea. An idea that could help power our nation’s green energy initiatives,” states the Pebble Partnership website. “An idea that could bring jobs and infrastructure to Southwest Alaska, helping families remain in their villages and thrive. An idea that all of this is possible in harmony with the environment.”
I don’t have space to go deeper into this controversy, nor do I choose to as it takes much more study and expertise than I have. That said, I will let you decide for yourself if Pebble is a world-class mining prospect or a world-class environmental disaster. If you choose to explore this topic further, Wikipedia, The Pebble Partnership the EPA and Common Ground offer a plethora of information on this topic.
All of the controversy aside, enjoy this video and you to will understand why salmon is the sacred fish of Alaska.
Text by Aleta Walther © 2014
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