Readers of Vital Choices will be familiar with the fight to block a massive gold and copper mine slated for the midst of the watershed that feeds the world's largest sockeye salmon run.
For links to more information on this fight, see “The struggle to save Bristol Bay's wild sockeye”, below.
We recently came across a great on-location video titled “Bristol Bay Through a Chef's Senses”, produced by Trout Unlimited  … an organization dedicated to conserving and restoring North America's coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.
As the introductory text says, “Five food leaders – Chef Rick Moonen, author Paul Greenberg (Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food), restaurateur Danny Abrams, celebrated dietitian Ashley Koff and Harvard-based educator Kathleen Frith – traveled to Bristol Bay in June 2011 to learn more about this amazing salmon habitat and food resource and the threat from the proposed Pebble Mine. Here are some of their adventures fishing and cooking, in the words of Rick Moonen.”
You can also see Rick Moonen competing in a “Salmon Smack Down” on CBS-TV's Early Show, and demonstrating his BBQ sauce for grilling salmon at the Monterey Bay Aquarium's recent Cooking For Solutions event.
And click here to view the series of “Why We Should Save Bristol Bay” YouTube videos from Save Bristol Bay, featuring a range of locals and other concerned Americans.
The struggle to save Bristol Bay's wild sockeye
You'll find several articles that provide background to the battle over the so-called Pebble Mine, in the “Mining & Seafood Sustainability” section of our newsletter archive. (We especially recommend “Golden Threat to Salmon: An Update by Nat Geo”.)
Given the consistently tragic history of water pollution by hard-rock mines – and the records of the mining companies involved – any honest assessment will foresee huge risks to salmon runs and the entire salmon-fueled Bristol Bay ecology
There are Alaskans on both sides of the struggle, because the mine will bring unusually high-wage but certainly temporary jobs to thousands of locals … and alluring but equally temporary revenue to the state and its residents.
However, we believe that this short-term gain is far outweighed by the risk posed to salmon by hard-rock mining for gold, copper, and other minerals.
The ability of wild salmon to find their birth streams and rivers – hence, their ability to spawn – is easily thwarted by even slight changes to the mineral composition of these waterways.
And the millions of salmon that return to and decay in those streams provide nutrients – what some scientists call a biological “power cable” – essential to the area's ecosystem of plants, trees, animals, and insects.
Sadly, the outcome of this battle is far from a foregone conclusion. The lure of short-term profit could still win out … despite the very real threat to salmon and the fishing and recreation opportunities and long-term jobs these fish support, directly and indirectly.
In 2008, Alaskan residents voted down a ballot initiative to increase protections for the salmon streams that support the huge Bristol Bay sockeye salmon runs … see “Alaskans Pick Gold Mine over Salmon Protection” and “Gold vs. Salmon: Alaskan Politics Factor in Fight over Mammoth Mine.”
So it remains essential that Alaskans and all Americans who value this truly irreplaceable resource – and the ecosystem it supports – keep up the pressure on Alaskan politicians and the U.S. Congress.