Join us to celebrate and protect Bristol Bay & Bering Sea fisheries during this year’s Pacific Marine Expo.
What: Fishermen’s Reception
Who: Fishermen and supporters of protecting Bristol Bay from offshore drilling and the Pebble Mine
When: Thursday, November 19th, 5-7pm
Where: The Piranha Shop, 1022 1st Ave. S.
*Delicious seafood appetizers and drinks by Orfeo Catering.
By Kate Vollrath
Since coming to Alaska, I have felt the urgency surrounding the need to protect Bristol Bay from offshore oil and gas development. While I understood that this place boasted one of the world’s largest salmon runs and that Alaskans do love their salmon, Bristol Bay took on a new meaning for me after a trip to the area last weekend. As soon as I stepped off of the plane in Naknek, I knew that this place was unique. Little did I know that my first trip to an Alaskan fishing community would be an experience I would never forget. It has impacted how I think about salmon, Bristol bay, and why this area is so unbelievably special.
The weekend began with renting a car and navigating the gravel road from King Salmon to Naknek. We were already soaked from the rain and decided our first stop should be D&D Restaurant to dry off and warm up while eating pizza. We then drove to the setnet beach. As we walked along the beach we saw setnet sites and the cabins that people stay in during their weeks of fishing. It was a quiet time of day as far as fishing was concerned, but I could imagine the setnetters on this very beach bringing in thousands of pounds of fish! The amount of human energy that fuels the set netting operation in Naknek is nothing short of impressive. I couldn’t believe how little the family we stayed with slept during our time with them! The salmon season is frantic.
We then decided to drive to a lookout point that would give us a better perspective from up above the beach. When we got to the point we could see numerous boats in the water. What really struck me while we took in the scene of the water was that so much of what happens in Bristol Bay occurs out on that water, away from land and towns. That world of boats, crews, nets, and salmon is a whole other city of its own, functioning all for the sake of catching salmon. Before coming to Naknek, AMCC’s Community Fisheries Organizer, Hannah, mentioned to me that Bristol Bay turns “into an offshore metropolis for salmon season”. As I gazed out at the water I understood what she meant. It truly is a sight to see that offshore metropolis come to life during the intense couple of weeks the salmon are here.
Later in the weekend, we ventured to Naknek Lake to take in the scenery during some down time we had. The trip to the lake was the experience that tied everything together in my mind and solidified the specialness of Bristol Bay. As we approached a dock on shore, we met a biologist who pointed out the many salmon that were swimming inches from the dock. At first glance, we could see red masses moving beneath the surface of the lake. The red seemed to move as a separate wave of water. Within in seconds of staring at the water, salmon were leaping left and right all around us! You could feel that this lake was pulsing with the energy of the salmon run…the water was alive with fish. My coworker Sam mentioned, “It’s pretty cool to see a wild resource, so much of our food is far from wild”.This resource is indeed wild, and therefore incredibly unique. Seeing the wild Bristol Bay sockeye salmon jump inches away filled me with gratitude, for the place of Bristol Bay and for those who have vigorously fought to protect it.
On our last night in Naknek, we hosted a film screening of Bristol Bay: A Legacy Story. Although I had already seen the film, watching it after spending time in Naknek made the history of Bristol Bay’s protection from offshore drilling much more real. After the film, we even received “thank you’s” from fishermen who had taken a break from their busy season to come in to Naknek for Fishtival and the film.
After spending time in Bristol Bay talking with fishing families, seeing wild sockeye salmon, and learning more about the culture and history of this place, I feel more strongly than ever that the uniqueness of Bristol Bay and what it means to those who depend upon its incredible fish resource, is worth protecting, once and for all.
A Legacy Story chronicles the long struggle over decisions about opening Bristol Bay and the southeast Bering Sea to offshore oil and gas drilling. Since the 1970s, people dependent on the region’s rich marine resources have been undaunted in an effort to protect these waters. On December 16, 2014, President Obama announced that the region would be permanently withdrawn from consideration for oil and gas leasing. The federal government agreed that the priority should be placed on sustaining traditional ways of life and the high value commercial fisheries in the region, and that offshore drilling presented risks that were not worth taking.
The story is told from the perspective of those on the front lines – leaders in the region and the seafood industry, past governors and former Interior Department secretaries. By documenting this story, future generations will remember the history, value the enduring effort made to permanently set Bristol Bay and the southeast Bering Sea aside from oil and gas leasing, and be supported in safeguarding the region into the future.
A Legacy Story was created by the Alaska Marine Conservation Council and Nunamta Aulukestai. See the 35 minute documentary film or read the print version.
Watch the film now:
Read the print version of A Legacy Story:
Friday, February 20th, 11:30am-1pm in Anchorage
One Course Discourse – Film Screening, Lunch, and Panel Discussion at Bear Tooth Theatrepub
Monday, March 2nd, 5:30pm in Juneau
At Beaver Round-Up in Dillingham
Saturday, April 4, 1:30pm in Kodiak
ComFish, Best Western Kodiak Inn Harbor Room
TBA for Homer Kodiak Screening
Watch the trailer:
A project of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council and Nunamta Aulukestai, Bristol Bay: A Legacy Story, chronicles the decades of work on the part of local residents and communities, tribes, seafood industry, and conservation organizations to protect fisheries and a way of life in Bristol Bay from offshore oil and gas drilling. On December 16, 2014 President Obama announced that he was withdrawing the North Aleutian Basin from the federal Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, thus protecting Bristol Bay and the southeast Bering Sea, the region’s valuable fishing grounds, and world’s largest wild salmon run from offshore development in perpetuity.
To commemorate the tireless work of the men and women who helped protect this region’s culture and livelihood, Bristol Bay: A Legacy Story was created. This film serves not only as a thank you to all those who have devoted invaluable time and energy to this issue, including the group of organizations, businesses, and communities that came together as the The Fish Basket Coalition, but also as a reminder to future generations who may face similar challenges to their marine resources. This story commemorates the many reasons why Bristol Bay is so valuable to both our local economy and our culture.
Dear friends and supporters,
Did you hear the AMAZING NEWS?! On December 16th, President Obama announced a landmark decision to permanently withdraw Bristol Bay and southeast Bering Sea waters (North Aleutian Basin) from the federal Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program! The decision represents a long and hard fought victory for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, an alliance of tribal, commercial fishing and conservation groups, and the people of Bristol Bay. For over 12 years, we have worked collaboratively to earn permanent protection from offshore drilling in Bristol Bay and the southeast Bering Sea, once and for all. Read more about the decision here.
AMCC and members like you have played an important role in the long effort to protect Bristol Bay – I know because that’s how I first got my start with the organization.
In 2003, we launched the “Friends of Bristol Bay” as news of the pending lifting of a congressional moratorium on drilling took hold. That moratorium was lifted, and we realized we were in for a long fight. I arrived in Alaska in 2005 to work as an AMCC intern supporting the Bristol Bay program as the momentum towards opening Bristol Bay to drilling again was quickly gaining speed and power. Since that time when Bristol Bay was on the chopping block, we have completely turned the tide. With support of members like you, we have shown the country and key decision makers that Bristol Bay indeed is a national treasure, far too valuable to our communities and fishing industry in Alaska to risk.
During my 5 years working on our Bristol Bay program, I plowed through environmental impact statements, walked the docks, was occasionally cursed at, read journal articles on seismic testing and the impacts of drilling, talked to fishing groups, worked on resolutions, lobbied Congress, and went head to head with Shell Oil and the corrupt Minerals Management Service. I also developed a fierce love for the region, its people, and a deep respect for the steadfast leaders like Robin Samuelsen, Kim Williams, Tom Tilden, Ralph Andersen, and Terry Hoefferle who were advocates for protecting Bristol Bay even before the Exxon Valdez spill happened. Many relationships with fishermen, local residents, and organizations from the region and across Alaska were built through this work that last to this day. The people that were part of this campaign are truly remarkable and formed a team that I am incredibly proud and thankful to have been a part of.
Working with a strong group of local, regional, and fishing partners who have been fighting offshore drilling in Bristol Bay since the 1980s, we dug our heals in and helped lay the groundwork for what would become a national campaign via the Fish Basket Coalition. In recent years, Dorothy Childers (pictured right) took over the Bristol Bay campaign for AMCC and played a critical role in helping bring this success home. With your support, we spread the word around the country and within the Obama administration that in Bristol Bay, “Fishing Means Business.”
AMCC has played an important role in protecting Bristol Bay from offshore drilling and for this I thank you, because this major victory could not have been achieved without your support. I invite you to join us in celebrating this momentous win for Bristol Bay’s important fisheries, subsistence resources, and ecological value, and the fishermen, residents, and communities who rely on them.
While we rejoice in this accomplishment, we know major threats to the region’s fisheries are looming. These include unacceptable levels of halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea that threaten local fisheries, continued diminished runs of Chinook salmon in the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers, the enormous and detrimental impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine, and the most acidic waters in the world recently recorded in the Bering Strait.
With your support, AMCC can continue to be a leader in advancing community-driven marine conservation solutions for Alaska’s future. I hope you will dig deep and continue to invest in the work of AMCC. Together, we can accomplish big, amazing things for the future of our fisheries and our ways of life that depend on them.
Thank you for helping make this historic moment possible!
by Dorothy Childers, Associate Director of AMCC
Today the Obama Administration announced a landmark decision to finally remove the North Aleutian Basin from the federal Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. We celebrate today’s action to protect Bristol Bay and the southeast Bering Sea, the region’s valuable fishing grounds, and world’s largest wild salmon run from offshore development in perpetuity. The decision represents a long and hard fought victory for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, who has worked collaboratively to prevent offshore drilling in Bristol Bay for over 12 years.
The announcement provides a lasting solution that resolves decades of uncertainty about whether or not offshore development would occur amidst Bristol Bay and the Bering’s Sea’s rich fishing grounds and adjacent federal waters.
“We have the nation’s most important fisheries in Bristol Bay and the eastern Bering Sea worth billions of dollars. Wild salmon for all of western Alaska runs through Bristol Bay every spring,” said Robin Samuelsen, Chairman of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation. “Herring, king crab, halibut nursery grounds and the large groundfish fisheries – all these bring economic benefits to our people and sustain a way of life that has been ongoing here for thousands of years. My father worked his whole life to protect our fisheries and create opportunity for the people. It’s a great honor to my family that the federal government recognizes his legacy by putting Bristol Bay off limits to offshore drilling.”
Since the 1970s, proposals to lease in Bristol Bay and the North Aleutian Basin have been controversial, generating great opposition from the seafood industry, tribes throughout western Alaska and coastal Alaskans.
In 1988 the Interior Department held Lease Sale 92 after years of litigation brought by the State of Alaska and others. Less than one year later, the Exxon Valdez tanker hit the rocks in Prince William Sound sending a shock wave around the state. Suddenly the real cost of an oil spill was clear, which stimulated Congress to intervene with a moratorium on exploration drilling on the leases that had been sold in Bristol Bay.
In 1995 the Interior Department bought back the controversial leases with support from Alaska’s Governor Knowles and the congressional delegation. A few years later, the Bush administration revived the possibility of offshore drilling in Bristol Bay by scheduling a new lease sale in the exact same area that had been bought back. However, President Obama revised the Bush administration’s Five-Year Plan and removed consideration of Bristol Bay until 2017.
Today’s announcement resolves longstanding concerns and should end the on again-off again nature of leasing in Bristol Bay. President Obama has removed the area from future oil and gas development under Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
An alliance of Alaska Native tribes, commercial fishermen, seafood companies and trade associations, and conservation groups are in support of permanently protecting productive fisheries and subsistence opportunities in the region. Fifty tribes and organizations across western Alaska passed resolutions and 20 seafood companies and trade associations called for permanent protection.
Bristol Bay and the southeast Bering Sea represent over 40% of U.S. domestic seafood production valued at more than $2 billion annually – including salmon, red king crab, herring, and groundfish such as pollock and cod. It is a critical juvenile halibut nursery for the whole North Pacific population and therefore important to fishing families statewide. Bristol Bay is a significant contribution to Alaska’s seafood industry which employs more Alaskans than any other private sector enterprise in the state and a tax base that supports our coastal economy and communities.
All five Pacific salmon species migrate through Bristol Bay every year on their way to spawning grounds throughout western Alaska. Bristol Bay hosts 50% of the global population of wild sockeye salmon, supporting a sustainable commercial fishery and a traditional harvest that has been ongoing for thousands of years. In 2014, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reported that 40.9 million sockeye returned to Bristol Bay. Commercial fishermen were paid $197 million for their catch destined for a global marketplace.
Congratulations to all who raised their voice in support of permanent protection from offshore drilling!
Recent Op-Eds on Protecting Bristol Bay:
- “Safeguard Bristol Bay watershed” by Marin Lee in the Peninsula Clarion
- “Bristol Bay, Bering Sea need protection from oil drilling” by Stosh Anderson and Robert Heyano in the Alaska Journal of Commerce
- “Bristol Bay fishery needs protection from oil and gas leasing” by Sue Aspelund in the Alaska Dispatch News
Story about the withdrawal in the Arctic Sounder by Carey Restino: “Obama removes Bristol Bay from federal drilling“
by Hannah Heimbuch, AMCC Community Fisheries Organizer in Homer
“Just peel it off the skin with your teeth,” Bruce Jolma told us, handing over chunks of smoked silver salmon from the Alaska Independent Fishermen’s Marketing Association (AIFMA) booth next door. For me, that order captured what the Pacific Marine Expo had to offer — rich opportunities to sink our teeth into.
AMCC sent a team of five to Expo this year — including Executive Director Kelly Harrell, Fisheries Director Becca Robbins Gisclair, myself, and board members Marissa Wilson and Emilie Springer. We had the opportunity to visit with old friends, and make a few new ones, building membership and communication through three days focused on the livelihoods, lifestyles and ecosystems the ocean supports.
Past board members pulled up a chair to catch up on AMCC’s latest efforts. Seasoned fishermen stopped to tell us stories from their decades of experience living and working on water. Young fishermen came by to ask questions, buy Salmon Sisters hoodies and talk about their journeys into fisheries businesses. And we got a chance to share our ideas and current projects with colleagues from a wide variety of marine industries, advocacy groups, research centers, management and policy organizations, and more. If you had a question about the marine world, you can bet there was a booth there with someone who could answer it.
While the daily smoked salmon was certainly a plus, the real benefit of this event was the rare opportunity to connect with a huge spectrum of people who share a vital interest in our ocean resources. This was especially apparent at the Fisherman’s Reception, held in celebration of Bristol Bay’s thriving fisheries. More than 200 people joined us Thursday evening, sharing food and drink in honor of the people and marine life of Bristol Bay, and the work that is being done to protect those resources. Most of the attendees stopped to sign post cards in support of further protections in Bristol Bay and the Aleutian Basin — messages destined for the offices of President Obama and Secretary of the Interior Jewell.
We look forward to many more years of participating in this excellent event, and building on the important relationships fostered there.