Chef Tom Douglas: Bristol Bay Salmon and What You Can Do to Save It


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Cross-posted with permission from Chef Tom Douglas’ blog.

We are at the cusp of fresh salmon season with delicious pink, coho, Copper River, sockeye, king, and Bristol Bay salmon appearing on menus. Salmon is synonymous with the Pacific Northwest, and here in Seattle we idolize it. That’s why Tom Douglas has teamed up with fisherman, canneries, celebrities, boat builders, and movie producers to get the word out on why saving Bristol Bay is so important.

For those who don’t  know about the fight occurring over Bristol Bay, here is a quick synopsis from the The New York Times. As the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world, over 50% of the world’s salmon comes from this one body of water, located in southwestern Alaska.  The latest Bristol Bay Economic Report states that the harvesting, processing, and retailing of Bristol Bay salmon is worth $1.5 billion in value, and thousands of jobs.

Pebble Mine is a massive copper and gold mine that is proposed to be built upstream from Bristol Bay. It is spearheaded by Northern Dynasty Minerals (British Columbia) and Anglo American (London). Together they form the Pebble Partnership.

Pebble Partnership is spending over $80 million this year to collect the permits and approvals they need from state and federal agencies to begin building. The mine is only guaranteeing 50 years-worth of copper and gold resources—just one generation’s worth—and yet, it is estimated to permanently affect thousands of acres of wetlands and natural habitats, shut down 90 natural streams, and create 3,000 pounds of toxic waste.

Here’s a quote from the CEO of Pebble Partnership, John Shively, in an interview with PBS Frontline: “If the choice has to be between fish and mining, we choose the fish. Our challenge is to prove that the two can coexist.” Based on the latest EPA report, and under the Clean Water Act, no evidence suggests this is possible.

Leading the fight is Commercial Fisherman for Bristol Bay. Tom Douglas has joined the fight because in his words, “This is a thousands-of-year-old fishery; it has thousands of years of life left in it if we run it properly. To me, it’s unequivocally one of the biggest environmental catastrophes waiting to happen of my lifetime.”

Tom goes on to make the point that for restaurateurs, chefs, and diners, Pebble Mine affects us too:

“What’s important to us is [salmon is] sustainably caught, sustainably run;  that is just a part and parcel for us as restaurateurs—especially, I think, high end restaurateurs—where our customers are looking for our guidance on what’s right to eat, what’s a good thing to have on our plate—if I have it tonight, that I can still have it tomorrow, and for the rest of my life” – Tom Douglas.

Posted by: Alisha Fowler

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