Protecting the salmon fishery from pollution


Izetta Chambers

Published on
May 18, 2010

I was very heartened to read the recent article published by the Associated Press, “EPA to limit pesticides near salmon streams.”  Although agricultural pesticides are not a major concern in the Bristol Bay region, other types of pollution and runoff may have serious ramifications for our salmon fishery.

This ruling sets the tone for policy by the Obama administration and his choice for heading up the Department of Environmental Protection, Lisa Jackson.  I applaud the new Obama administration, EPA and NOAA for listening to sound science.  It is my hope that other rulings will be further enacted to protect our salmon, our environment, and our human health. 

While critics may see this rulemaking as a hindrance to business development, I believe that we can look to the Gulf oil disaster as a reminder to avoid the “development-at-all-costs” mentality.  There are serious consequences to the attitude that economic concerns should trump environmental concerns.  We need to recognize that we are the environment.  We live on one round planet, with mixing air currents, one atmosphere, and one body of water that cycles over and over again between saltwater, freshwater, clouds, and rain.  There is no other place for pollution to go.  Eventually, it will end up in our own bodies, and in the bodies of our developing children.  This fact has been clearly realized in places such as Greenland, whose women are urged not to breastfeed their own babies, due to toxic buildup of mercury and other contaminants from industrial pollution that has bioaccumulated in their primary food source – marine mammals.  These contaminants didn’t originate in Greenland, but rather drifted in on ocean and air currents from industrial developments in Europe.  

Aside from the environmental concerns that toxic chemicals in our waterways raise, as a member of a fishing community I recognize that our economy is wholly dependent upon clean water and healthy salmon runs.  We depend upon this vital limited resource (water) for our health, our heritage, and our commercial economy.  Tourists also come to this remote part of Alaska for the pristine beauty and wild, untamed nature.  We are so blessed to be afforded the privilege of living in such a great state as Alaska, with 17% of the world’s remaining wild lands.  With this recent ruling, and possible subsequent expansions on it to include other types of degrading environmental practices, perhaps we will be able to pass the great heritage, lifestyle, and healthy food source on to the next generation. 

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