Commercial fishermen from Bristol Bay against Pebble Mine. (Photo Credit: Commercial Fishermen of BB)
Pebble mine poses risks to Bristol Bay salmon, EPA concludes
Thursday, January 16, 2014, 23:50 (GMT + 9)
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its final Bristol Bay Assessment describing potential impacts to salmon and ecological resources from proposed large-scale copper and gold mining in Bristol Bay, Alaska.
The report, titled An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska, is a result of thorough and comprehensive study, which included realistic mine scenarios based on a preliminary plan that was published by Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. and submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. EPA’s conclusion is that large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed poses risks to salmon and Alaska Native cultures.
The risk of environmental damages range from salmon habitat destruction in an area estimated 24 to 94 miles, failures in water treatment, toxic spills, among others.
On the other hand, the economic impact would also be critical. Bristol Bay ecosystem generates economic activity and provides employment for over 14,000 full and part-time workers.
Over the course of the assessment, EPA received and considered comments of involved parties such as Native Tribes, representatives of the fishing industry, conservation organizations, and member of the community and Congress, among others.
The Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay also reacted. If Pebble Mine starts operating, USD1.5 billion will be lost annually.
Bob Waldrop, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association said, “We implore the Obama Administration and EPA to invoke a swift 404(c) determination so we can continue to fish for generations and maintain Bristol Bay’s sustainability, as fishermen have for over 125 years.”
The fishery is responsible for almost 50 per cent of all wild sockeye salmon harvested worldwide and an average of 32 million-sockeye return to Bristol Bay every year.
The region supports all five species of Pacific salmon found in North America: sockeye, coho, IHCnook, chum and pink. In addition, it is home to more than 20 other fish species, 190 bird species, and more than 40 terrestrial mammals.