The battle to save Bristol Bay’s salmon, possibly the longest-running conservation campaign in the US, goes on.
A group of more than 200 businesses and industry associations has sent an open letter to U.S. President Joe Biden and the country’s Congress asking for lasting protection of the world’s largest sockeye salmon run.
The letter’s signatories, which include Patagonia, Grundéns and Costa, are asking that the Clean Water Act be used to permanently block the proposed Pebble Mine that threatens the Alaskan bay.
“As businesses that value and depend on Bristol Bay’s pristine waters, we stand with the people of the region and ask our elected leaders to quickly act to permanently protect the bay from large-scale mining.
“For nearly two decades, the proposed Pebble Mine has threatened the Bristol Bay region and its world-class wild salmon fishery, which supplies nearly 60 per cent of the world’s sockeye salmon, employs more than 15,000 people, and generates $2.2 billion [€1.8 billion] in annual economic activity,” says the letter.
The Obama administration was in the process of applying Clean Water Act protections to Bristol Bay in 2014 when the process was stalled by a lawsuit from the mine’s developer, Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP).
In 2019, the Trump administration removed proposed protections in the region. A year later, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied PLP’s permit application.
Stakeholders, including recreational and commercial fishing bodies, local tribes and residents, argue that the mine would cause irreparable damage to the region and the salmon stocks and have repeatedly called for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce lasting protections.
The letter calls for the EPA to use its authority under the 404(c) veto to protect Bristol Bay ‘in perpetuity and ban any industrial mining project that will damage the salmon’. During the presidential campaign, candidate Biden said he would block the Pebble Mine if elected, but legislative action from his administration has yet to materialise. The Bristol Bay summer salmon season is just getting started, with a predicted run of nearly 51 million fish.