Anchorage hatchery’s egg take sparks a new life cycle for king salmon
Anchorage Daily News by Emily Mesner - July 27, 2020
Fish culturists at an Alaska Department of Fish and Game hatchery collected eggs from spawning king salmon in Anchorage this week to support fish stocking programs at locations across Southcentral Alaska.
They sanitized, screened, quarantined and they still got COVID-19
KTOO by Adelyn Baxter - July 25, 2020
The owners of a local seafood processor thought they did everything right to keep their business safely running during the pandemic. But even with mandatory COVID-19 screening and two week quarantine for out-of-state staff, the virus still found its way into the facility.
Seafood companies kept COVID-19 from infecting Alaskans. Now they’re trying to keep the virus out of their plants.
Alaska Public Media by Nathaniel Herz - July 24, 2020
This spring, as Alaska hunkered down and kept COVID-19 rates low, residents of the state’s fishing towns raised strong objections to the arrival of thousands of fishermen and seasonal plant workers, fearful that the visitors could bring the virus with them.
Trump administration clears way for Alaska’s Pebble Mine, despite fears it could imperil a salmon fishery
LA Times by Richard Read - July 24, 2020
The Trump administration has lifted a major hurdle for development of a massive gold and copper mine in the wilds of Alaska despite fears that it will poison the world’s largest sockeye salmon run.
Corps Releases FEIS on Pebble; Opponents Call it “Unconscionable” And Vow to Keep Fighting
SeafoodNews.com by Peggy Parker - July 24, 2020
As expected, the U.S. Corps of Engineers released today a Final Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed copper, gold and molybdenum mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, “rubber stamping” a process that was given new life in the Trump administration after being vetoed by the Environmental Protection Agency in the Obama administration.
The announcement today, which Pebble Limited Partnership’s CEO Tom Collier called the “… single most significant day in the 15-year history of the Pebble project,” also comes on the heels of another historic salmon run in Bristol Bay. Fishing is ongoing, but as of July 22, 55.4 million sockeye salmon have returned to the five river systems in the Bay, and 37.3 million fish have been harvested. Both the run size and landing volume are well above pre-season forecasts by the state.
“Bristol Bay’s commercial salmon fishery was deemed “essential” and our fishermen risked their lives this summer — literally — to go out and harvest nutritious protein for our fellow Americans. Bristol Bay was also the only region in Alaska to see strong salmon returns this summer,” said Andy Wink, Executive Director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA).
“If this administration values America’s food and job security, then our federal agencies should be taking an extra hard look at this project and doing everything they can to protect Bristol Bay and its 14,500 fishing and seafood jobs. For the Army Corps to rubber stamp a massive toxic open-pit mine in the headwaters of a national food source just doesn’t make sense.
“There is no precedent for a mine of this size and type coexisting with abundant wild salmon runs. What the Pebble Partnership has proposed is essentially one big experiment with no real science or data to back it up," Wink said.
Alaska’s Congressional delegation and a majority of Alaskans, including nearly all in the seafood industry have expressed their dismay at the incomplete draft EIS released earlier this year. Since then, the Corps has changed a main component of the plan with no additional analysis or public comment.
The Corps now must wait at least 30 days before issuing permit under the Clean Water Act, allowing damage to wetlands. But the Corps could also reject Pebble’s application, or issue a permit with conditions, according to a news report from the Anchorage Daily News.
Federal permits from the U.S. Coast Guard and from the Bureau of Safety and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement must also be given, Mike Heatwole, a Pebble Limited spokesman told ADN. He added that it would take another estimated three-years for the state permitting process, which entails 30 different permits, to be complete.
The Pebble Limited Partnership currently does not have a partner with experience in digging a mine. They have been turned down by many experienced mining companies over the last several years for various reasons.
Collier told ADN on Wednesday that he was not prepared to talk about the mine’s profitability.
“But most of these projects become profitable six to eight years in as they’ve begun to pay off infrastructure costs,” he said.
Pebble offered a profit-sharing plan for Bristol Bay residents earlier this year, though it did not provide detail of potential income.
Collier said Northern Dynasty recently raised $35 million through the stock market, providing funds to carry the project into next year.
“With the Final EIS out, there’s no doubt left about the Army Corps’ inability and unwillingness to conduct a thorough, science-based permitting process. Bristol Bay’s fishermen are counting on the EPA to use its veto authority under the Clean Water Act to ensure protection of Bristol Bay,” said Katherine Carscallen, Executive Director of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay.
“We need the EPA to stand by its own science, which shows that the Pebble Mine cannot be built — at any size — without harming our country’s largest source of sustainable wild salmon.”
Pebble’s opponents, who have not seen a full analysis of a disaster that would impact the watershed, such as a catastrophic breach in the tailings dam, have described the review process as flawed and rushed to benefit Pebble Limited Partnership.
For instance, last May the Corp changed the transportation route from across Lake Iliamna by ferry to a completely overland route that would go around the northern edge of the lake, asserting it is “practicable” despite staunch opposition from Pedro Bay Corporation, Igiugig Village Council, and the Bristol Bay Native Corporation. The Corps asserted that route would be best and Pebble Partnership called it “practicable”, but the three native corporations own the land along the route.
They have asserted there is ”no possibility Pebble will receive permission to access their lands, and [we] have told the Army Corps that the route should not be considered practicable,” they said in a statement today.
“It’s unconscionable that the Army Corps is sticking to its rushed timeline and refusing to provide an additional public comment period on the northern route, which was panned in the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, which would cause irreparable harm to far more salmon streams and wetlands than the initial preferred route, and which opens up the possibility of the 78-year mine Pebble actually wants and needs,” corporation representatives said today.
“Since day one the Army Corps has cut corners, ignored the science, and silenced Alaskans. They still haven’t answered our questions and addressed our concerns about missing information and data," said Frances Leach, Executive Director of United Fishermen for Alaska.
"Their Final EIS is not the thorough, science-based assessment that we were promised," she said. UFA is the state's largest organization representing fishermen.
"At every step of the process, the Pebble Limited Partnership has lied to Alaskans and government agencies about their real mine plan. They have made dozens of changes and even waited until the 11th hour to drastically alter their transportation corridor, which reveals their true intentions of building a much bigger mine. That’s not how you build trust, especially when Alaska’s most valuable salmon fishery is at stake," Leach concluded.
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