SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Powerhouse Bristol Bay, Alaska salmon fishery produces $1.5 billion in value



May 09, 2013

(SitNews - Ketchikan, Alaska) - The Bristol Bay, Alaska commercial salmon fishery is the world's most valuable wild salmon fishery and in total produces an astounding annual value of $1.5 billion, according to a new report, "The Economic Importance of the Bristol Bay Salmon Industry."

The fishery supports a significant number of jobs in the four West Coast states, Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California, and the total value of Bristol Bay salmon product exports in 2010 was about $370 million, accounting for nearly 20% of the total value of all US seafood exports. Written by researchers at the University of Alaska's Institute for Social and Economic Research, the report marks the first time the full value and impact of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery has been measured.

The report was released during a phone conference on May 9 that included Deadliest Catch Captain Johnathan Hillstrand , who said: "For everyone who counts on the salmon industry to make a living, the Pebble project is the Deadliest Mine. The only people who want this mine don't live in Alaska or even the United States. They're foreign mining companies that want to sell gold and copper to the Chinese."

The report comes at the same time the EPA is conducting a comment period of its revised Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, a scientific report that shows that digging up the proposed Pebble mine will destroy up to 90 miles of salmon streams and up to 4,800 acres of wetlands in the best case scenario, without potential leaks or a catastrophic failure.

"There are few issues that are more black and white than protecting Bristol Bay. EPA's draft assessment and this economic impact study both confirm that the proposed Pebble mine would be bad for fish and bad for fishermen. With 3,000 Washington state jobs at stake, we can't afford the ecological or economic risk," said Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington.

Following the April 26th release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) revised Bristol Bay assessment, U. S. Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) said in a prepared statement, “The EPA was asked some tough questions by Alaskans and their own hand-picked peer review panel about how large scale development might affect the rich salmon resources of Bristol Bay. While I remain opposed to a pre-emptive veto of this or any other project, an open, public process that answers Alaskans’ questions and puts better science on the table is a good thing. I look forward to reviewing this assessment and hope it answers questions about whether this project can meet the high hurdle of developing a large-scale mine while protecting our renewable resources.”

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) also responded to the Environmental Protection Agency’s release on April 26th of a revised watershed assessment of Alaska’s Bristol Bay region.

“My review of the full document is still underway, but in the meantime I want to reiterate what I have said in the past. Attempts to prejudge any mining project before the full details of that proposal are submitted to the EPA for review is unacceptable. The permitting process exists for a reason and a federal agency can no more ignore the established process than can an applicant,” Murkowski said.

“If the EPA has concerns about the impact of a project there is an appropriate time to raise them – after a permit application has been made, not before. It is clear to me that a preemptive veto of resource development is quite simply outside the legal authority that Congress intended to provide to of the EPA. I made that clear to the previous EPA administrator and I will make it clear to the current nominee, Gina McCarthy,” Murkowski said.

Quoting a news release from Murkowski, the EPA undertook the watershed assessment in response to petitions to preemptively veto development in Alaska. Murkowski has continually criticized the EPA for failing to rule out using the watershed assessment to justify preemptively blocking development, including mineral production by the Pebble Limited Partnership, in Southwest Alaska.

Murkowski has also stated that EPA’s use of a hypothetical mine – much of which is designed to violate modern environmental standards – is a fundamental flaw that must be fixed if Alaskans are to make informed decisions about development in the state. According to Murkowski, the revised watershed assessment does not fix this flaw.

Murkowski has twice written to the EPA (Feb. 16, 2011 and April 18, 2012) about her concerns with the agency’s Bristol Bay watershed assessment, including whether a decision by the agency to block a large-scale mining operation could set a legal precedent that would prevent other development proposals. The EPA responded on Mar. 21, 2011, and May 17, 2012.

There is a shorter executive summary of the report, which was commissioned by the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. Highlights include:

  • The Bristol Bay salmon fishery supports 12,000 jobs in fishing and processing; including 4,369 fishing and processing jobs in Alaska; 3,227 in Washington state; 2,143 in Oregon; 553 in California and 1,629 in other states.
  • The fishery creates an additional 7,800 jobs across the country due to multiplier effects of retailing in grocery stores, restaurants, etc., and developing value-added products.
  • The commercial fishery provides about $500 million in direct income to workers across the country every year.

The EPA conducted the scientific assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed to understand how large-scale mining could potentially affect water quality and salmon ecosystems in the Bristol Bay watershed - home to one of the largest salmon populations in the world and an area with significant mineral resources.

The EPA launched the study in response to petitions from federally-recognized tribes and others who wrote to the EPA with concerns about how large-scale mining could impact Bristol Bay fisheries. Other tribes and stakeholders requested that EPA wait for mining permit applications to determine the potential environmental impacts of mining. The assessment will provide a better understanding of the Bristol Bay Watershed and will inform consideration of development in the area.

Key changes to the EPA assessment include:

Refinement and better explanation of the mine scenarios assessed, including the role in developing these scenarios of worldwide industry standards for porphyry copper mining and specific preliminary mine plans submitted to state and federal agencies related to the Pebble Mine Project.

- Incorporation of modern conventional mining practices into mine scenarios and clarification that some of the projected impacts assume that those practices are in place and working properly.

- Addition of an appendix describing methods to compensate for impacts to wetlands, streams and fish.

- Reorganization of the assessment to better reflect the ecological risk assessment approach and to clarify the purpose and scope.

- Additional details about projected water loss and water quality impacts on stream reaches, drainage of waste rock leachate to streams, and mine site water balance to assessment of potential mine impacts.

- Expanded information on the potential transportation corridor, including analysis of potential diesel pipeline spills, product concentrate spills, truck accidents involving process chemicals and culvert failures.

After this peer review follow-up and public comment period are complete, EPA will review feedback and move forward to finalize the assessment. EPA intends to issue a final assessment in 2013.

The EPA public comment period ends May 31, 2013.


Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


On the Web:

New report, "The Economic Importance of the Bristol Bay Salmon Industry" 99 pages, pdf

Read EPA's revised draft assessment of the potential impacts of large-scale mining development on Bristol Bay fisheries and wildlife, and on Alaska Native cultures of the region.


Source of News: 

Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association

Fishermen for Bristol Bay

Office of U.S. Sen. Mark Begich

U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski - Ranking Member


E-mail your news & photos to

Publish A Letter in SitNews

Contact the Editor

SitNews ©2013
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

 Articles & photographs that appear in SitNews may be protected by copyright and may not be reprinted without written permission from and payment of any required fees to the proper sources.