(Washington, DC) – Today, Bristol Bay Tribes, commercial fishermen, and conservation groups joined U.S. Representative Jared Huffman (CA-02) for a press conference in the House Triangle to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect Bristol Bay from the threat of Pebble Mine as soon as possible.
Releasing a Proposed Determination (PD) is the next step EPA can take to finalize 404(c) Clean Water Act protections for Bristol Bay, which is home to the most ecologically and economically important remaining salmon fishery on Earth – providing half the world’s wild sockeye salmon. In fact, Bristol Bay is a bright spot among salmon fisheries impacted by climate change and resource development, with a record-breaking 73.4 million sockeye expected to return to Bristol Bay this season.
But, all that is at risk due to the proposed Pebble Mine. For more than a year, Bristol Bay Tribes, commercial fishermen, and advocates have asked the Biden administration and EPA to finalize Clean Water Act protections by this summer’s fishing season to finally end the threat of Pebble Mine looming over the people of Bristol Bay and all those whose livelihoods depend on its waters. This could help complete a decades-long fight to provide durable protections for the area and stop what would be one of the world’s largest mines.
“With something as critical to the economy of Alaska to the way of life of the people in Bristol Bay, something as critical as this Bristol Bay watershed, you just can’t afford to leave that to chance. You gotta finish the job. That’s why many of my colleagues and I wrote to the EPA, asking them to use the clean water act authority they have and provide that permanent protection for this watershed and fisheries – and it’s now time for them to finish the job,”said U.S. Representative Jared Huffman (CA-02).
“We are back here again today to ask Congress again to help us save our salmon. Ask them to ask the EPA to do a 404(c) to save our waters. Our salmon is just not our salmon. We are people that live on the land and believe that we are protectors of that salmon. Because that salmon belongs to America. When you look at how many people utilize – 50 percent of the salmon that is in America comes from our waters. Our waters are pristine, plentiful – that’s what nurses the salmon so well. We have a record run coming this summer. 70 million fish coming back – that is unheard of. So we are the greatest salmon producer in the world. We want that to continue – because this product does not belong to us, it belongs to Alaskans, it belongs to the nation, it’s an international product,” said Thomas Tilden, Chief at Curyung Tribal Council and Board Member of United Tribes of Bristol Bay.
“Why is it so important to protect Bristol Bay now? Record runs. Last year over 66 million fish returned, this year over 73.4 million are forecasted to return. To give you an idea of how many fish that is: imagine an outline of the United States. 73 million nose to tail would go around the outline of the United States twice and then some. This is a generational opportunity to keep this going. 15,000 jobs a year, over $2.2 billion goes back into the economy from Bristol Bay. What’s the recipe for this? It’s simple: absolutely perfect habitat and world-class management. Bristol Bay is perfect – leave it alone,” said “MJ” Michael Jackson, President of Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association and Advisor for the Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay.
The Bristol Bay Defense Fund also launched a six-figure print, digital, social, television, mobile billboard, and outdoor postering ad campaign in Washington, D.C. this week. The ads urge the Environmental Protection Agency and the Biden Administration to veto Pebble Mine and finish the job of protecting Bristol Bay. The ads state: “EPA, be a hero for Bristol Bay. Veto Pebble Mine now.