The President Barack Obama 2015 Alaskan Tour got a little messy when the POTUS visited subsistence fishing Alaskan Natives in Bristol Bay’s rich salmon ecosystem. He also got a hand’s on look at the salmon industry.
From The Alaska Dispatch:
The first stop was on Kanakanak Beach, named for the Yup’ik word for westerly. Alannah Hurley, executive director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay, and Mae Syvrud, a subsistence fisherwoman, stood in boots and waders by subsistence setnets. Obama, dressed in a black outdoors jacket with no easily visible logo, was given some orange gloves then picked up a silver salmon.
“I didn’t catch it,” he told the press pool. “I didn’t want anyone to think I was telling fish tales.”
He talked with both women a while, about fish and about fishing, about how to pick fish from nets, about what kind of salmon is caught, Hurley said later. It was impossible to hear most of what was said. She said she thanked him, for protecting Bristol Bay.
Obama last year declared Bristol Bay off-limits to oil and gas leasing. The Environmental Protection Administration is fighting in court to use its powers under the Clean Water Act to prevent a mega-mine in the Bristol Bay watershed like the proposed Pebble project.
In this small town of 2,300, almost everyone fishes or has family who does. Alaska Native, fishing and environmental organizations as well as the city council have taken a position against Pebble.
The women picked a flopping silver and handed it to Obama. A stream squirted out of it. “Uh oh. What happened there?” he asked.
It’s a spawning salmon, the women told the president.
It got on his shoe, the president said, and that generally is not what you want on your foot. One of the women said something to him. “She said he was happy to see me,” he said to laughter.
Obama also talked to reporters about wild salmon and the potential threat to Bristol Bay if the controversial Pebble Mine project is greenlit.
From the Associated Press:
The president’s visit to the fishing operation came with a serious goal of promoting the importance of environmental protection.
“If you’ve eaten wild salmon, it’s likely to have come from here,” Obama told reporters. “It’s part of the reason why it’s so critical that we make sure that we protect this incredible natural resource, not just for the people whose livelihood depends on it, but for the entire country.”
Obama also stopped at a grocery store, saying he wanted to call attention to how the difficulty of getting goods to Alaska causes high prices.
“You’re looking at prices that are double, in some cases, or even higher for basic necessities like milk,” he said. A half-gallon of milk at the N&N Market cost $8.99 and a large bag of Doritos went for $7.99. Obama said his administration is exploring ways to address the situation.
Dillingham, which sits on an inlet off the Bering Sea, is the fishing hub for Bristol Bay, a world-renowned salmon fishery. Obama’s visit to the town of fewer than 3,000 people briefly placed him at the center of a roiling conflict between fishermen and developers who want to build a gold-and-copper mine called Pebble Mine.