By Celeste Noche, Epicuring
Alaska’s Bristol Bay is renown among fisheries because of the amount of sockeye salmon that return each year is currently unprecedented in the world: up to 40 million salmon, migrating within the world’s only fully functional ecosystem. Native Alaskans have relied on Bristol Bay salmon for thousands of years– not only as a food source but also as a way of life.
Now the livelihood of this ecosystem and lifestyle are at risk as large gold and copper deposits have been found at the headwaters of the rivers that feed into the Bay. The proposed Pebble Mine would create a hole 20 miles wide and deep enough to house the Space Needle– potentially causing irreparable damage to the local wildlife.
In an effort to prevent this mine and to protect Bristol Bay, Trout Unlimited has been touring the United States and sponsoring free screenings of Red Gold— a documentary about the potential effects of constructing the world’s largest mine at Bristol Bay’s headwaters. On Monday, this screening rallied California residents, local fishermen, chefs and Bristol Bay advocates together to discuss how the issue transcends Alaska and has become of national importance.
How would Pebble Mine affect Californians?
Bristol Bay is home to the one of the last great wild food sources in the world. By putting this ecosystem at risk, we also risk our access to the abundant wild sockeye salmon–a delicious, versatile and nutritious source of protein. Within the Bay Area, there are 160 fisherman who hold commercial fishing licenses in Bristol Bay, potentially impacting their livelihood.
A Pebble Mine would impact domestic revenue. In 2008, the total wholesale value for commercially caught Bristol Bay salmon was over $300 million. However, the mineral rights and the project are controlled by Canadian and British corporations, raising doubts about any purported benefits to American industry or economy.
How can Californians help?
An important fact to note is that Bristol Bay will never come to a vote. However, the only authority that can prevent the mine is the state of Alaska. With public support, the EPA can protect rivers and wetlands that are important for fish spawning and wildlife habitat. Here’s what to do to show your support:
1. Write letters in support of Bristol Bay to the EPA.
2. Spread the word– whether through facebook, twitter, or good old fashioned word of mouth. Awareness is key.
3. Vote with your fork:
From October 25th – 30th, these six San Francisco restaurants will donate a portion of their salmon proceeds to Save Bristol Bay. Show your support by dining out and making a conscious effort to patronize wild salmon.
335 Powell Street
PIER 39 #202
San Francisco, CA 94133
252 California St.
301 Mission Street
Tataki Sushi Bar
2815 California St.
1740 Church Street
Visit Save Bristol Bay for more information and to see how you can get involved.