Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fishermen Unite Nationally to Protect Bristol Bay

Seventy-seven commercial fishing groups from Alaska to Maine have signed a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency asking for protection of the Bristol Bay watershed, its wild salmon stocks and the commercial fishing jobs that rely on them.

Bob Waldrop, a leader of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay, made the announcement today in Washington DC Waldrop said the group is “Standing should to shoulder in support of sound science, the most valuable wild salmon fishery on earth and thousands of commercial fishing jobs that are threatened by development of the Pebble Mine.”

The fishing groups expressed support for the EPA’s ongoing scientific watershed assessment of the bay. The EPA is investigating potential impacts of large-scale development on Bristol Bay’s salmon streams and rivers. They are urging the agency to use its authority under Section 404 (C) of the Clean Water Act to block a required federal dredge-and-fill discharge permit for the proposed mine if the assessment finds that the bay’s natural resources would be harmed or compromised by large-scale mining.

The mine is expected to produce and store over 10 billion tons of toxic waste behind earthen dams, upstream of the bay’s salmon-spawning headwaters.

The direct value of Bristol Bay’s salmon averages $350 million per year, and the commercial fishery is the economic engine of the region. Now 130 years old, the commercial fishery supports 8,000 fishing jobs, and another 4,000 processing and industry-support positions.

Waldrop noted that commercial fishermen who participate in the Bristol Bay fishery come from 38 states where they spend their earnings, pay taxes and support local economics. “And just one federal permit stands between our fishery and a grave threat,” Waldrop said. “Anyone who suggests a huge mine can store billions of tons of toxic waste in our headwaters and not risk this fishery is substituting wishful thinking for facts.”

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