Sailors for the Sea Publishes Essay about the Threats to Alaska’s Bristol Bay

Home to the World’s Healthiest Sockeye Salmon Run

Boaters encouraged to join Bristol Bay fishermen and residents to protect a healthy, sustainable, renewable food source

Newport, Rhode Island – February 26, 2014 – Sailors for the Sea, the only ocean conservation nonprofit focused on the sailing and boating community, recently published “Bristol Bay Salmon,” which looks at the unique ecosystem that makes up Bristol Bay, Alaska and the threats a proposed 28 square mile open-pit mine will have on the habitat of the area.

Sarah Schumann, Rhode Island fisherman and Bristol Bay salmon cannery worker, contributed this month’s Ocean Watch Essay, and draws attention to the threats to Alaska’s Bristol Bay – home of the world’s healthiest sockeye salmon run, which produces no less than 46 percent of the sockeye, or red, salmon in the world.

Fishermen and residents of Bristol Bay face a choice of maintaining a healthy, sustainable, renewable food source, or supporting a short-term, non-renewable mineral extraction that will provide 1,000 jobs for the next 25 years but will eliminate up to 94 miles of salmon spawning stream and 5,350 acres of wetlands.

Most of the once thriving wild salmon fisheries in much of the contiguous United States have been driven to depletion by river dams, water diversion, and other forms of habitat degradation, and no longer feed families, provide recreation, and support commercial fishing economies. Until recently, residents of Bristol Bay, Alaska continued to benefit from a vibrant commercial fishery that has delivered food to local residents for over a century. This pristine, intact fish habitat – unique to Bristol Bay and increasingly scarce in other parts of the world – sustains this continued abundance. However, this rich food source is now threatened by a proposal to develop Pebble Mine – North America’s largest open-pit mine at the headwaters of two of its rivers.

According to Schumann, “There’s no such thing as a consequence-free mining development at the scale proposed for Pebble, and the efforts to restore degraded salmon fisheries once altered tend to be slow and often ineffective.”

The 37 million or so salmon that return each summer to Bristol Bay’s five river systems fuel an entire ecosystem – feeding everything from humans worldwide to streambed invertebrates, bears and eagles, and the purple fireweed that blankets the Tundra in August. The salmon also sustain 14,000 jobs ranging from net makers to boat mechanics to fillet line workers and anglers, who for generations have carefully managed the fishing of the salmon stock to ensure a continued and abundant harvest year after year.

Opportunities to Help Protect this Natural Resource
The EPA recently finalized its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, a scientific document that will underpin its decision whether to protect the area from future mining. Based on two years’ worth of research, two rounds of public comment, and an extensive peer review process, this document validated what many Bristol Bay fishermen and residents have cautioned: even without a major mine disaster development of the Pebble Mine will have an adverse impact on the area’s salmon and salmon fishery.

While Bristol Bay’s habitat is remote for many individuals, its health is important to all. Individuals can make a difference in creating a positive future for the ocean by supporting and understanding:

And:

More about the Ocean Watch Essay Program
The Ocean Watch Essay program, a free online resource accessible through the Sailors for the Sea website, provides a constant stream of updated articles on current ocean issues such as ocean acidification, plastics, nonpoint source pollution, and invasive species. Each essay is accompanied by information on how individuals can make a difference in relation to the issue, creating a linkage from knowledge to personal action. Whenever possible, the program also provides information about activities, events, and opportunities, such as lectures, classes, and beach and ocean water clean ups, for people to take action to preserve, protect, and improve the health of the ocean and coastal waters. To see the entire library of Ocean Watch Essays visit http://www.sailorsforthesea.org/resources/ocean-watch-essays.

About Sailors for the Sea
Founded in 2004, Sailors for the Sea is a nonprofit organization that educates and engages the boating community in the worldwide protection of the oceans. For more information on or to participate in any of the Sailors for the Sea programs, or to support the organization, visit www.sailorsforthesea.org.