FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 31, 2023
Contact: Drue Winters
AFS Commends EPA Veto of Pebble Mine Project to Protect Bristol Bay Salmon Fisheries
The American Fisheries Society commends the EPA’s use of its authority under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to safeguard Bristol Bay’s, sustainable wild salmon and the pristine habitat they thrive in from the irreversible effects of Pebble Mine, a project whose impacts to fisheries and the watershed cannot be adequately reduced or mitigated.
Bristol Bay supplies 57 percent of the world’s wild Sockeye Salmon, generating $2.2 billion annually, supporting 15,000 American jobs, and sustaining Indigenous communities since time immemorial. Incredibly, more than 78 million salmon returned to Bristol Bay in 2022. In addition to Sockeye Salmon, Bristol Bay and the watershed support one of the world’s largest remaining wild Chinook Salmon runs and healthy Coho, Chum, and Pink Salmon runs. These salmon, as well as resident trout, sustain lucrative commercial and recreational fisheries and provide jobs and food security to 25 rural Alaska Native villages and thousands of people. The high salmon production fuels an entire ecosystem including grizzly bears, moose, and estuarine birds. The indigenous Yup’ik and Dena’ina, two of the planet’s last salmon-based subsistence cultures, rely on these fisheries for food and these salmon runs are integral to their culture.
Pacific salmon are already facing very real threats from climate change throughout their ranges. Protecting the productive waters of Bristol Bay is critical for maintaining their unique populations and their resilience to climate change as temperatures rise and hydrology changes. The habitat disturbance created by the Pebble Mine would erode that resilience, threatening the salmon populations and everyone who depends on them.
AFS has long expressed concerns about the development of a mine in Bristol Bay. Today’s veto closes a chapter in the long-struggle to preserve an extraordinary fishery of global significance.
“Salmon across the nation are sliding towards extinction due to pollution, habitat loss, and warming waters, yet Bristol Bay is one of the few places where salmon continue to thrive,” said AFS Executive Director, Douglas Austen, Ph.D. “EPA’s decision to use its Clean Water Act authority to preserve the last healthy wild salmon runs in the country and their untouched habitat is the right decision.”
Editor’s Notes: Founded in 1870, the American Fisheries Society (AFS) is the world’s oldest and largest fisheries science society. The mission of AFS is to improve the conservation and sustainability of fishery resources and aquatic ecosystems by advancing fisheries and aquatic science and promoting the development of fisheries professionals. With five journals and numerous books and conferences, AFS is the leading source of fisheries science and management information in North America and around the world.