EPA urged to finalize watershed protections for Bristol Bay

On the eve of the 2021 Bristol Bay wild salmon fishery, with a run of over 51 million sockeyes anticipated, spokespersons for the region’s fisheries, economics, tourism and tribal entities are asking the federal government to finalize clean water protections for the watershed.

“Our work to make sure Pebble [mine] does not go forward is far from over,” said Jason Metrokin, president and chief executive officer of the Bristol Bay Native Corp., speaking at a news conference at Dillingham on Thursday, June 10.

“More permanent measures are needed,” Metrokin said. “Last month our board of directors unanimously approved a two-pronged strategy that supports both administrative action from the EPA for 404c restrictions on efforts to mine the Pebble deposit, as well as legislative action in conjunction with our congressional delegation that would protect important salmon habitat in Bristol Bay and bring new economic opportunities to the region, and its residents.”

Metrokin was joined in calling on the EPA to finalize Clean Water Act protections for Bristol Bay by Alannah Hurley, executive director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay; Fritz Johnson, vice president of Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association; Nanci Morris Lyon, owner of Bear Trail Lodge; Professor Daniel Schindler of the University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Science; and Robin Samuelsen, chairman of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp.

“We must protect Bristol Bay at all costs,” said Samuelsen, a veteran Bristol Bay gillnetter.

“Our governors, our senators, our representatives need to recognize the uniqueness of Bristol Bay. They need to step forward and create a clear process that will protect Bristol Bay.”

“The science behind assessing risks of mines like Pebble Mine and Bristol Bay are absolutely crystal clear and should make decision making easier,” said Schindler, who has conducted research on Bristol Bay salmon over many years. “There is no debate in the scientific community about the list of risks that mines like Pebble Mine will represent to water quality to watersheds to salmon, and to people’s economies, livelihoods and cultures.”