Bristol Bay Saved at Last
On January 30, 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a landmark decision, permanently protecting the Bristol Bay Watershed along with surrounding wetlands and fish-bearing streams. For well over a decade, commercial fishermen, Bristol Bay Tribes, and conservationists urged the EPA to protect the epic salmon runs in Bristol Bay.
What did Bristol Bay need protecting from? Since 2001, a small Canadian company called Northern Dynasty Minerals has been proposing a mine in The Bay. The Pebble Deposit is a massive storehouse of gold, copper, and molybdenum. It is located in the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers, two of the eight major rivers that feed into The Bay. If such a large mine were ever to be built in The Bay, it would devastate the sustainable fishery.
The Bay supports the culture and economy in the region, generating $2.2 billion annually, along with over 15,000 jobs, and most importantly for us, producing over half of the world’s sockeye salmon. The sustainable lifestyle fostered in The Bay makes it one of the last functional wild-based salmon cultures in the world. Thankfully, for now, Bristol Bay can function at peace.
The Future of Alaska Waters
The EPA’s final ruling against the Pebble Mine halted the construction of such a mine in Alaska waters for the foreseeable future. To permanently protect The Bay, the EPA used its veto power issued by The Clean Water Act Section 404(c). While this decision is positive and durable, it is not bulletproof. The EPA used this veto power issued by the Clean Water Act just 13 times before this one since 1980.
The fact that the EPA uses this power so judiciously gives encouragement that the decision will stand. Even better, a decision of this caliber has never been overturned. So, for now, Bristol Bay and all of Alaska’s surrounding waters are protected. However, decisions like this do not come without push back.
Shortly after the EPA’s decision to permanently protect The Bay, Alaska’s Governor Mike Dunleavy argued that this decision lays the foundation to stop beneficial development projects. The Pebble Partnership also vowed to fight this decision in court. So, it is important that all of us advocates pay attention and do our part when we have to. The best way to permanently protect Bristol Bay is to encourage Congress to pass a bill that authorizes said protection.What Can We Learn From Bristol Bay to Help Protect Idaho Rivers?
Like we said earlier, public engagement is the primary reason why the EPA used its veto power to protect Bristol Bay. Consistency and dedication prove to be effective when it comes to encouraging policy decisions
In Idaho, advocates have been pushing to conserve rivers and develop a comprehensive plan to restore salmon in the Upper Columbia Basin. There are federal dams located in the Snake River that are severely diminishing the salmon population in the area. These wild salmon are being driven to extinction, despite their positive contributions to the Northwest’s ecosystem.
In the case of Bristol Bay, the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA denied the Pebble Mine due to the detrimental effects it would have on salmon bearing streams and nearby populations. For over 20 years, scientists, local Indigenous communities, fishermen, and other advocates pleaded for some sort of permanent protection. The steps taken to reach the decision in The Bay lay the framework for the protection of some of our nation’s most important waters and wildlife, like the situation in Idaho.
Influencing Environmental Policy Decisions
To encourage federal action for water protection, advocates need to prove to the government that the preservation of the water is more important than whatever the alternative may be. In the case of Bristol Bay, the salmon and their benefit to the ecosystem proved to be far more important than the benefits of a mine in the area. For Idaho, we must show that the benefits of the salmon in the rivers outweigh the costs of replacing services in the dams.
Recently, the Biden Administration pledged to protect and conserve lands and waters nationwide. However, this will not happen without strong public support. Bristol Bay proves that consistent public engagement encourages policy decisions. When it comes to protecting our nation’s waters, we are responsible for drawing attention to the areas that we want to protect. To learn more about Idaho’s rivers and protecting the salmon, you can check out Idaho Rivers United and take action today!
Pride of Bristol Bay
At Pride of Bristol Bay, our Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon is harvested in the pristine waters of Bristol Bay, AK. As fishermen we are committed to the highest of quality and handling standards at the point of harvest, creating the unsurpassed quality and flavor you’ll find in every one of our wild sockeye fillets and portions. Every case of our wild salmon is labeled with the name of the Bristol Bay Fishing District in which the wild salmon was harvested from.
Each year we have Spring and Fall Buying Clubs available in Boise and Sun Valley, and have been expanding to other locations. Our Buying Clubs allow you to pre-order your flash/frozen sockeye at a significant discount with other locals in your
These events allow bulk delivery to a single location, allowing you to receive your salmon at a lower cost per pound. An excellent value for a premium product! In addition, 2% of all of our sales in Idaho go back to Idaho Rivers United to help continue the fight for your rivers.
Our buyers clubs are currently closed, but are currently shipping this year's catch door to door.
Alaska and Idaho are the two states with the most river miles, so they have the most to lose. Let’s make a
From our nets to you,
Autumn Chassie is a recent graduate from Gettysburg College with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Political Science and Public Policy with minors in Spanish and Peace and Justice Studies. She is attending Notre Dame Law School to continue her policy and advocacy journey. When she is not in school, she resides at home in Elysburg, Pennsylvania. While wild seafood is not in her criminal justice policy focus, Autumn is passionate and excited about learning more about seafood and how to preserve the beautiful places it comes from, especially Bristol Bay, AK. She loves applying the knowledge that she gains through her education to important environmental issues, writing blog posts, and anything in between while she’s working with Wild For Salmon.