USDA seeking even more Alaska pollock
Seafood Source by Christine Blank - April 1, 2019
Soon after announcing its multimillion-dollar purchase of Alaska pollock from several key North American suppliers, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking more of the frozen fish.
Governor Dunleavy Taps Three New Appointees to Alaska Board of Fisheries
SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - April 2, 2019
Governor Michael J. Dunleavy announced yesterday his appointees to the Board of Fish.
There were four seats open on the Board of Fish, two from expiring terms and two from resignation (Al Cain and Orville Huntington). Israel Payton was reappointed, Gerad Godfrey replaces Robert Ruffner, Karl Johnstone replaces Al Cain, and Marit Carlson-Van Dort replaces Orville Huntington who is now taking a seat on the Board of Game.
“The following individuals are highly qualified and knowledgeable in their respective fields, and I believe they will have Alaskan’s best interests in mind while serving on the Board of Fish and Board of Game,” said Governor Dunleavy.
Governor Dunleavy’s appointees to the Board of Fish include:
Israel Payton of Wasilla, a lifelong Alaskan and incumbent on the Board. Raised in Skwentna, Payton lived a subsistence lifestyle harvesting fish and game. His years of work experience throughout Alaska includes guiding, North Slope operator, commercial pilot, airplane mechanic, deck hand, and property manager. Payton currently works for Airframes Alaska, Alaska's largest manufacturer and seller of aviation parts. Payton is currently on the Board of Fish and will continue to serve per his reappointment.
Marit Carlson-Van Dort, born and raised in Alaska, spent over a decade salmon seining and forging a strong appreciation of Alaska’s fishery resources as a young woman. Carlson-Van Dort received her BS in Conservation Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and graduate work in Fisheries Science and Secondary Education. She has a background in both the private and public sectors, with experience in government affairs, environmental policy, permitting, development, and community outreach. Ms. Carlson-Van Dort currently serves as director of external affairs for Nana Regional Corporation.
Gerad Godfrey of Eagle River grew up commercial fishing in the Kodiak Island Fishery for twelve years. He spent fourteen years working on the North Slope and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in the Port of Valdez. Godfrey has worked for Afognak Native Corporation since 2009, recently becoming the Vice Chair on the Board of Directors. Previously, he was Governor Walker’s senior policy advisor on rural affairs and served for 17 years as the chairman of the Violent Crimes Compensation Board. Godfrey will take his seat on July 1, 2019.
Karl Johnstone of Anchorage has been a resident of Alaska since 1967. Karl graduated with a BS in Production Management in 1964 and with Juris Doctor from the University of Arizona. He practiced law until 1979 when Governor Hammond appointed him to the Superior Court. He served as Presiding judge for the last four years until retiring in 1996. Karl previously served as member and chairman of the Board of Fisheries from 2008-2015.
Johnstone and Carlson-Van Dort will take their seats on the Board of Fish immediately.
Research expedition reports surprising findings on coho, sockeye salmon in Pacific Ocean
Puget Sound Institute by Christopher Dunagan - March 27, 2019
After five weeks at sea, a team of 21 scientists from five countries returned Monday with some surprising findings about the mysterious lives of salmon in the Pacific Ocean, according to Laurie Weitkamp, a salmon biologist with NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Newport, Oregon.
‘Extremely low’ levels of Fukushima radiation found in Bering Sea waters
Anchorage Daily News by Alex DeMarban - March 31, 2019
Small amounts of radioactive contamination believed to be from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan have been detected in Bering Sea waters for the first time thanks to a persistent effort by village residents on St. Lawrence Island.
Native Leaders, Scientists, BBEDC Say Pebble Mine Existential Threat to Salmon at Juneau Briefing
SeafoodNews by John Sackton - April 2, 2019
State Leaders and Congressional Delegation failing to protect Alaska's Crown Jewel
In an emotional news conference in Juneau yesterday, representatives from Bristol Bay Native Communities, the BBEDC, Scientists and politicians denounced the Army Corps of Engineers Draft EIS plan on the Pebble Mine as woefully incomplete.
They called on the state legislative leaders, governor, and Alaska’s Congressional delegation to step in and not allow a bankrupt group of promoters to threaten Alaska’s historic salmon fisheries for a multi-million dollar payoff. They contend the entire rushed process is driven by ideology from Washington, and has no relationship to what Alaskan’s need or the future of their state.
They said the study refused to consider the current science on salmon habitat and the future probabilities of mine failures, leading to a 20% chance of a massive acid spill flowing into the Nushagak River Watershed.
Norman Van Vactor, CEO of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, said he “has no confidence in the Army Corps' permitting process underway."
He made the point that Alaska’s seafood brand, into which both the state and the industry have poured millions of dollars, is at risk if mine tailing poisons get into the watershed. Alaska’s reputation with retailers and restaurants is built on “pristine habitat and sustainability, not open pit mines.”
Van Vactor also criticized the Army Corps of Engineers permitting process. He said they are taking Pebble’s assertions at face value, even though there statements have changed repeatedly over the past ten years. The corps is not testing the validity of Pebble’s assumptions.
Dr. Daniel Schindler, principal investigator for the UW Alaska Salmon Program which has studied the ecology of salmon and their watersheds in western Alaska since 1946 made the point that the science presented by Pebble was a farce.
He pointed to the following failures:
-Stream productivity studies were done for one or two years. Yet the Univ. of Washington’s research shows that stream productivity for salmon varies tremendously over tens of years. One Nushagak creek they monitor used to produce 1000 to 2000 fish. In the past few years it has produced 30,000 to 40,000. Pitt creek went from 90,000 fish to 4,000 to 5000 in just six or seven years.
His point is that the entire Nushagak watershed represents a mosaic of stream habitats that allow salmon to select the best environmental conditions in any given year, and taking some of these streams out of circulation can only be judged on their long term productivity, not how many salmon are in the creek in a given year.
Pebble’s habitat assessment covers two years, out of the 130 years salmon has been returning to Bristol Bay for the commercial fishery.
Those in the industry know that in the same way that the 2 million ton cap on groundfish has kept the pollock industry healthy and sustainable through varying conditions, the foundation of Bristol Bay salmon is based on the ability of salmon have a wide variety of micro habitats, which in some years are marginal, but in other years are spectacularly productive. Taking away from this range of habitats threatens the entire ecosystem.
He said this is even more important due to climate change, as the variability from year to year is greater. The Pebble study on water temperature, for example, cites material the author says specifically doesn't apply to high latitude salmon fisheries, such as in Alaska.
Schindler also pointed to the total failure of the EIS to account for cumulative risk. The various dislocations and destruction to habitat don’t operate in silos, but are all connected. For example, a release of poison metal waste into the Nushagak water system does not just affect the creeks involved, but also all those tributaries cut off because salmon won’t traverse poison waters.
The other failure to account for cumulative risk was in the short time frames considered.
This point was emphasized by Dr. Cameron Wobus, a Senior Scientist at Lynker Technologies, who developed a hydrologic model of the upper Nushagak and Kvichak watersheds in the Bristol Bay region to better understand the potential impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine.
Wobus said, first of all, the idea of a 20 year operating life of the mine was laughable. Pebble chose a 20 year time frame because it was the only way they could make the risks small enough to meet Army Corps policies. But economically, no one believes it is a 20 year project.
It is a hundred year project, and investors are told that the main payoff from the mine would come from operating at a larger scale and for a longer time frame than the 20 years proposed in the permit application.
Once the permit is in place, there is no time limit, and the mine can expand.
There have been substantial studies of mine tailing dam failures that show Pebble’s approach is reckless.
The basic problem is that an open pit mine like this requires excavating down 2000 to even 5000 feet in a giant pit, and then taking all that material and treating it with acid to leach out the metals, and then replacing the material and the water back in the pit. The result is huge reservoirs of acidic water poisoned with high levels of heavy metals. Tailings dams are supposed to keep this tainted water out of the groundwater system, and out of the rivers.
Pebble, by using a 20 year time frame, calculates the likelihood of a dam failure at around 1%. Yet extending the time frame to 100 years (still less than the time the commercial fishery has sustainably operated) increases the likelihood of a catastrophic failure to 20%.
According to the hydrologic model, a tailing dam failure would go 140 kilometers downstream into the Nushagak, and 55% of the sediments would make it to Bristol Bay. The upper Nushagak would be cut off.
In other words, a group of promoters will make millions of dollars if they can convince the state’s leaders that a 20% chance of catastrophic destruction in Bristol Bay is acceptable.
Another issue Wobus addresses is ground water contamination. The site is 200 feet of gravel on top of fractured bedrock. How can the Pebble EIS say water will not leak into this porous structure. The plan is to allow the pit lake to fill for several decades reaching a depth of 1800 feet, before the mine starts pumping off the surface water to prevent leaching. But the backfill will put poison acidic water everywhere around the lake. Pumping off just the top hundred feet or so will not solve the problem, and then of course Pebble has to store the water it just pumped out.
Finally, Pebble is located in a seismic area. For places with seismic activity, a more expensive dam construction method is needed, called downstream construction. Instead, Pebble has chosen a cheaper method, called centerline construction, which uses less material. These dams have a higher failure rate in seismic areas.
In short, the EIS says almost nothing about the tailings dams, which will be a long term threat to the region years after the promotors have taken their money and gone home.
Gayla Hoseth, 2nd Chief of Curyung Tribal Council and Director of Natural Resources at Bristol Bay Native Association said the Army Corps is following a "politically driven timeline."
"Since day one, the Army Corps has made it clear they intend to push forward a mine Alaskans have said time and time again, they don't want," she said.
Hoseth called on Alaska’s congressional delegation to stand up for the people who elected them, and to represent Alaska, not bow to the wishes of a foreign corporation who wants to operate for a few years and then leave.
The press conference followed up a week of hearings in Western Alaska, where the project was met with almost universal opposition.
Here are some quotes from testimony at the hearings
"It is a complete folly to think you can contain these proposed massive tailing ponds. Murphy's law, if something can go wrong it will go wrong. Earthquakes, large storms, human error. Just look at Mount Polley. To date, nobody is being held responsible for that disaster, and they're telling us this time they're getting it right" – said Martin Speak, a Bristol Bay fisherman who lives in Seattle. His boat is the F/V Little Moose
“In the short time I’ve been able to skim over the draft EIS I’ve seen a lot of language like “not expected to” or “unlikely” to a lot of our concerns. I see a small tailings dam failure scenario rather than the worst that can happen. I see a small mine impact and not an expanded mine impact - or the impact other mine’s development can have.
...I don’t see seismic analysis that will give me certainty that something catastrophic won’t happen close to the mine. I don’t see a reclamation plan that I trust knowing that many mines change ownership and end in bankruptcy and superfund sites. I see a polished, rushed report that favors development of Pebble.” - Everett Thompson, Naknek resident and Bristol Bay commercial fisherman
“We do need economic development, however, we are not willing to trade our culture, we are not willing to trade our pristine waters, our salmon and our environmental place for a foreign mining company’s gain.” – Lydia Olympic, former Igiugig Village Council president
“It’s not just about salmon or the abundance of wild animals, but us as people. We are a resource. We belong here and we matter. I want our culture and traditions to be passed down to future generations. If Pebble goes through it would further push our traditions and culture aside during a time when we are trying to revitalize what was taken from us before.” - Sheryl Wassillie, Igiugig
“If you’ve ever had a drink of Lake Iliamna water you know the magnitude of how important this is. If you’ve ever brewed a cup of coffee with this lake water you know how important this is. If you’ve ever eaten fish from this river you know how important this water is. If this mine is permitted, I’m concerned we’ll no longer be able to drink this water, whether it’s from dust pollution, spills, or from an egregious ice breaker ship, from runoff or effluent near a new road or a tailings pond failure. This mine will jeopardize everything that makes this region what it is.” - Tate Gooden, Igiugig resident
Many people have criticized the 90 day time period for comments, that began March 1st. Van Vactor wants 285 days, which is more in line with the magnitude of the project and its risks. The fact the Corps of Engineers is trying to rush this though is a telling sign it is a political fix.
Alaska’s leaders are being presented with a clear choice: will they stand up and protect the crown jewel of the state fisheries: Bristol Bay, or will they let ideology and the desire of promoters who want to make a quick buck set in motion an economic project that is weak, underfunded, rejected by all the most powerful mining companies in the world, and which could saddle the state with a toxic waste and reputation problem for centuries.
The original findings on Pebble all rejected the mine as not appropriate for the Bristol Bay Watershed. The original owners of the prospect all bailed out, as after spending $500 million is was found not economically viable except at a scale larger than Alaska could accept. Now a rump group, with political and ideological allies, has revived the proposal and undercut previous rulings, and it is being rushed through. This is an issue on which Alaskan leaders will be judged for generations, and yet they think 90 days is enough to get this right.
MSC grows its multi-stakeholder board with five new members
Seafood Source by Madelyn Kearns - April 2, 2019
Five new members have been appointed to the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) Board of Trustees, the certification organization announced on 2 April.
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