A new economic impact report from researchers at the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research puts the value of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery at $1.5 billion.
The report, prepared under contract for the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, says the fishery supports a significant number of jobs in Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California, and that the total value of Bristol Bay salmon product exports in 2010 alone was $250 million, accounting for 6 percent of the total value of all US seafood exports.
The report marks the first time the full value and impact of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery has been measured, said BBRSDA executive director Bob Waldrop.
The report’s release on May 9 comes in the midst of a US Environmental Protection Agency comment period, with a May 31 deadline, on the revised draft Bristol Bay watershed assessment. The assessment draft documents the EPA’s concerns that large scale mining such as the proposed Pebble copper, gold and molybdenum project would in a best case scenario destroy up to 90 miles of salmon stream habitat and up to 4,800 acres of wetlands, even without potential leaks or a catastrophic failure at the mine site.
Backers of the mine at the Pebble Limited Partnership in Anchorage have responded to the report by urging the EPA to abandon what the PLP sees as a flawed, biased document. Pebble officials contend that the mine can be developed and operated in harmony with the salmon fishery in the Bristol Bay watershed.
The final EPA Bristol Bay watershed assessment document is expected to have a critical role in whether or not the mine is developed.
ISER researchers Scott Goldsmith, Gunnar Knapp and Mouhcine Guettabi said that in 2010 along, harvesting, processing and retailing Bristol Bay salmon and the multiplier effects of these activities created $1.5 billion in output or sales value across the United States.
In that year, Bristol Bay salmon fishermen harvested 29 million sockeye salmon worth $165 million in direct harvest value alone, their report said. That represented 31 percent of the total Alaska salmon harvest value, and was greater than the total value of fish harvests in 41 states. Salmon processing in Bristol Bay increased the value by $225 million, for a total first wholesale value after processing of $390 million, and the total value of Bristol Bay salmon product exports in 2010 was about $250 million, or about one-sixth of the total value of all US seafood exports, the report said.