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Tim Emery
"Tim Fishman Emery" - Guest Blogger

Guest Blog: Save Bristol Bay, Alaska

Guest Blog by: Tim Emery , CO 10/18/2011
I hope to see everybody at this great event. This is a great way for FishExplorer.com members to show their support for an amazing fishery. To learn more about the event and R.S.V.P. click here.

Bristol Bay – An Amazing Alaska Fishery That’s Worth Fighting For
Scott Hed, Director – Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska

Sport anglers have bucket lists, no doubt about it.  And Alaska has a strong chance of being on a lot of those lists.  There are a lot of wild places tucked away in the American West, but Alaska is wild on steroids.  It’s a place that you either dream of going some day, or if you’ve already been you dream of returning again (and again).  Alaska’s a huge place with lots of fishing, but even by Alaska standards one place rises to the top when discussing the “best of the best.”  Stories of the proverbial “fish of a lifetime” – those landed, as well as those lost – are set along the banks of the rivers and streams of Southwest Alaska’s famed Bristol Bay region.  Each season, anglers from across the globe trek to Bristol Bay to pursue trophy wild rainbow trout in numbers hard to match elsewhere.  And when you say “trophy” when describing rainbow trout in Bristol Bay you better hit 30” on the tape or you need to step right up and try it again.  In addition to the rainbows for which the region is most famous, other prized game fish include all five species of Pacific salmon, Dolly Varden, arctic char, lake trout, arctic grayling, and northern pike


Fly anglers primarily chase those huge rainbows – Bristol Bay is one of those “places to fish before you die” in fly circles.  Sport anglers of the conventional tackle variety visit the region primarily to pursue salmon – many of which will fly south in freezer boxes, bound for the dinner plates of anglers and their friends.  The planet’s largest runs of king salmon and sockeye salmon return to Bristol Bay.  Local residents of Bristol Bay fish to support their subsistence lifestyle.  These rivers are literally their grocery stores.  And the commercial fishing fleet and its support operations employ thousands of people each summer, harvesting some of the 40 million plus (no lie) sockeye salmon that return annually to the rivers of Bristol Bay.  Heck, even some of the crews on “Deadliest Catch” work in Bristol Bay for salmon season when they’re not chasing crab in the Bering Sea.  The Bristol Bay fishery supports over 12,000 jobs and generates roughly $450 million in economic impact each year, a figure that doesn’t include the value of the food for the residents of the region.

In case you’ve not heard, here’s what would bring all these divergent interests together to fight for Bristol Bay.  The proposed Pebble Mine is a scheme by foreign mining interests (Northern Dynasty Minerals from Canada, Anglo American from England, and Rio Tinto from England & Australia are the major players) to develop a massive copper-gold-molybdenum mine in the headwaters of the Bristol Bay basin.  Just a few basics ought to be enough to get the point across:

* Pebble would be the largest open pit mine in North America, three times as large as the Bingham Canyon copper mine outside Salt Lake City.  Pebble would be 20 times the size of all other mines in Alaska combined.
* Since the prospect is very low grade (less than 1% copper equivalent), 99% of the material mined would need to remain on site.   That’s 10.8 billion tons of waste.  Yes, you read that correctly.  
* On top of that staggering quantity of waste, the prospect holds between 2% and 5% sulfur, meaning it has a high likelihood of producing acid mine drainage.
* To potentially control all that waste, Pebble proposes to build 5 earthen dams (two of which could be the largest on the planet)…in an area with frequent seismic activity.  
“Perpetual remediation” is the term the developers use.  Basically they promise they can protect Bristol Bay’s waters and fisheries from this hazardous waste from now until the sun burns out.

Since the prospect is so low grade and the project would require enormous infrastructure (new deepwater port on Cook Inlet, 100+ mile road from port to mine site, 3 times the amount of water used by Anchorage every day, 375 megawatts of power which is more than Anchorage’s Municipal Light and Power generates) to make it economical there is simply no small development alternative.  This is an all or nothing proposition.

There has never been a mine of this size or type ever proposed in a fisheries stronghold as sensitive as Bristol Bay.  Given the history of mining relative to water quality impacts, most do not believe we ought to gamble that Bristol Bay will be where the mining industry “gets it right.”

This past February, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to review the suitability of large-scale development projects – like the proposed Pebble mine – in the Bristol Bay watershed. It’s an important first step if we’re to achieve our ultimate goal of protecting the world’s largest wild salmon fishery and one of the planet’s premiere sporting destinations. We’ve got to keep the foot on the gas pedal, crank up the grassroots networks in the coming year, and make sure EPA follows this process through to its logical conclusion: Pebble is simply the wrong idea in the wrong place.   We’ve got a fighting chance, and support from the angling community will be critical.  Do this right now: Contact EPA and Congress at www.SaveBristolBay.org/TakeAction.

Scott Hed is Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska, a project to inform and engage the global community of anglers and hunters on Alaska conservation issues. 

The Bristol Bay Road Show Denver Info
Thursday, October 27 at the Oriental Theater in Denver 7pm
* Eat wild Alaska salmon appetizers prepared by Chef Justin Brunson from Wild Catch
* See the award-winning documentary film Red Gold by Colorado filmmakers Felt Soul Media
* Win great door prizes including: Fishing Rods and more
Tim now lives in Denver after ten years of being a fly fishing guide and shop manager in Vail. Tim has become an urban fisherman focusing on fishing within an hour of Denver. He uses his fly rod to fish for anything he has time for and he fishes often. You can follow him on Twitter @TimFishmanEmery or like him on Facebook. Tim's day job is a Real Estate agent and property manager in the Denver area. Rumor has it, he will buy you a fly rod if you buy or sell a house with him!
Credit: Terry Gunn Brown bears are found in high densities in Southwest Alaska, feeding on the prolific salmon runs of the region
Credit: Bob Bolger A bright king salmon from a Bristol Bay river.
Blog content © Tim Emery
Blog Comments
IceFishingFool, 10/18/2011 10:07:49 PM
This is VERY SCARY. Marking my calendar now.
 
Tim Emery (Tim Fishman Emery), 10/21/2011 9:23:42 AM
Hey Bud, Bring the whole crew. I hope to see everybody there! Tim
 
 
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