Nation's Commercial Fisherman Unite to Protect Bristol Bay, Alaska
EPA asked by 77 commercial fishing groups to protect salmon fishing grounds, keep mining out of Bristol Bay area
The Commercial Fisherman for Bristiol Bay organization has announced that 77 commercial fishing groups from Alaska to Maine have sent a letter to the Obama Administration urging it to protect Bristol Bay, its epic salmon runs and the commercial fishing jobs that rely on them.
The groups include the Maine Lobstermen's Association, Gloucester Fishermen's Wives, Maryland Watermen's Association and Southern Shrimp Alliance. In all, they represent more than 16,000 commercial fishermen across the country.
"Today, commercial fishermen from across America stand shoulder to shoulder in support of the most valuable wild salmon fishery on earth, and the thousands of commercial fishing jobs threatened by development of the Pebble Mine," said Bob Waldrop, a leader of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay.
In a letter to the EPA, fishing leaders express support for the agency's scientific watershed assessment, which is investigating impacts of large-scale development on Bristol Bay's productive salmon streams and rivers. The groups urge the agency to use its authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to block a required federal dredge-and-fill permit for the mine, if the bay's natural resources would be harmed or compromised by large-scale mining. The mine is expected to produce and store 10 billion tons of toxic waste behind earthen dams, upstream of the bay's salmon-spawning headwaters.
"This is the first time I can remember commercial fishermen from the entire country speaking so clearly in support of a regional fishery," said Sig Hansen, a Bering Sea crab fisherman and star of The Deadliest Catch. "It's clear that fishermen and consumers across the country value Bristol Bay salmon and will not let a mega mine jeopardize it."
The direct value of Bristol Bay's salmon averages $350 million per year, and the commercial fishery is the economic engine of the region. Now 130 years old, the commercial fishery supports about 8,000 fishing jobs, and another 4,000 processing and industry positions.
Waldrop added: "Bristol Bay is a national issue. Our fishermen hail from 38 states where they spend their earnings, pay taxes and support local economies."