Businesses call for long-term salmon protections in Bristol Bay, Alaska

Published on
June 11, 2021

A group of more than 200 businesses and industry associations sent an open letter to the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden and the U.S. Congress yesterday asking for lasting protections in Bristol Bay, Alaska, home to world’s largest sockeye salmon run.

The letter was signed by large foodservice and retail players like Sysco, Hy-Vee, Wegmans, and Publix, as well as outdoor recreation and commercial fishing companies like Grundéns, Patagonia, Costa del Mar, and Keen.

The companies are asking Biden and Congress to utilize the Clean Water Act to permanently block the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay.

“As businesses that value and depend on Bristol Bay's pristine waters, we stand with the people of Bristol Bay and ask our elected leaders to quickly act to permanently protect Bristol Bay from large-scale mining. For nearly two decades, the proposed Pebble Mine has threatened the Bristol Bay region and its world-class wild salmon fishery, which supplies nearly 60 percent of the world's sockeye salmon, employs more than 15,000 Americans, and generates [USD] 2.2 billion [EUR 1.8 billion] in annual economic activity,” reads the opening paragraph of the letter.

The Obama administration was in the process of applying Clean Water Act protections to Bristol Bay in 2014, but the process was stalled by a lawsuit from the mine’s developer, Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP). In 2019, the Trump administration removed proposed protections in the region. A year later, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied PLP’s permit application.

Several agencies have said the Pebble Mine would cause irreparable harm to the region, and local tribes and residents along with commercial and sport-fishing organizations have repeatedly called for the EPA to level lasting protections. Now, scores of businesses that depend on Bristol Bay’s yearly output of wild-caught salmon are joining the chorus of voices publicly opposed to the mine.

“Our company is committed and invested in sourcing only the most-sustainable and high-quality seafood for our customers. We depend heavily on Bristol Bay’s salmon fishery for much of our wild Alaska salmon, which is a popular product among our seafood offerings. We support Bristol Bay’s tribes and commercial fishermen in their efforts to protect this incredible wild fishery from the threat of the proposed Pebble Mine,” said Jason Pride, vice president of meat and seafood at Hy-Vee.

The letter says the EPA must use its authority under the 404(c) veto to protect Bristol Bay “in perpetuity and ban any industrial mining project that will damage the salmon."

“A healthy economy depends on a healthy environment. The fisheries of Bristol Bay are a shining example of a thriving renewable industry that is managed responsibly and supports both local family businesses and large international corporations. Protecting Bristol Bay is a way for the Biden administration to make good on its pledge to address climate change, empower Indigenous communities, and build a stable and vibrant economy for our country. Permanently closing the door for the Pebble Mine is an important opportunity that the Biden administration should act on immediately,” American Sustainable Business Council Co-Founder and President David Levine said.

During the presidential campaign, candidate Biden said he would block the Pebble Mine if elected, but legislative action from his administration has yet to materialize. The Bristol Bay summer salmon season is just getting started, with a predicted run of nearly 51 million fish.  

On 11 June, the Biden administration announced it would restore protections to Tongass National Forest which were removed by the Trump administration. The move ends the process begun under Trump of opening about nine million acresone of the world’s largest intact temperate rainforests to logging and road construction, according to The New York Times.

Photo courtesy of liveyourlife/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from Seattle, USA

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