Renowned Bristol Bay watershed and salmon fishery is at significant risk from proposed open pit mine

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on February 28, that it is identifying options to protect the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery in Bristol Bay, Alaska, from the potentially destructive impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine. Pebble Mine has the potential to be one of the largest open pit metal mines ever developed and could threaten a salmon resource rare in its quality and productivity and one of the world’s last prolific wild salmon resources. The EPA is initiating this process through provisions in the Clean Water Act based on extensive scientific study to identify what impact the proposed Pebble Mine would have on Bristol Bay.

“Extensive scientific study has given us ample reason to believe that the Pebble Mine would likely have significant and irreversible negative impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed and its abundant salmon fisheries,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “It’s why EPA is taking this step forward in our effort to ensure protection for the world’s most productive salmon fishery from the risks it faces from what could be one of the largest open pit mines on earth. This process is not something the Agency does very often, but Bristol Bay is an extraordinary and unique resource.”

Bristol Bay produces nearly 50 percent of the world’s wild sockeye salmon with runs averaging 37.5 million fish each year and has the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery and one of the largest king salmon runs. Bristol Bay is also home to many other important recreational species such as Arctic Char, Arctic grayling, rainbow trout, lake trout, Dolly Varden, northern pike and whitefish. Collectively, sportfishing in the Bristol Bay region contributes more than $60 million in economic activity annually. This productive fishery is primarily because the Bay’s freshwater salmon habitat is largely untouched by development.

“As a trade association the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) realizes this is a rare decision by the EPA,” said ASA Vice President Gordon Robertson. “Balancing business needs and the welfare of our nation’s fishery and water resources frequently represents a challenge and the EPA’s decision on Pebble Mine is no exception.”
Robertson further said, “Because of the significant fishery resources and recreational fishing’s economic benefit to the Bristol Bay area, collectively through ASA, and individually as companies and organizations, the recreational fishing industry has urged the EPA to consider this decision.”

Robertson concluded, “The EPA received more than 850,000 requests from businesses, conservation organizations, elected officials and individual anglers asking the EPA to take action to conserve Bristol Bay’s unique position as one of our nation’s most productive salmon fisheries.”

Logo courtesy American Sportfishing Association

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