Vail Daily letter: Save salmon fishery | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily letter: Save salmon fishery

Kaleb Walker
Vail, CO, Colorado

I have spent my last four summers fishing for salmon in Bristol Bay, Alaska. I live in Gypsum and own a local business, Kaleb’s Katch LLC, selling the delicious sustainably caught wild Alaskan salmon that I catch out of the pristine waters that feed Bristol Bay.

Each summer thousands of other fisherman from around the country travel north to be a part of this amazing natural phenomenon. Most earn the bulk of their salary when the salmon flood back to Bristol Bay’s rivers.

Foreign mining companies are trying to develop North America’s largest open-pit mine in the headwaters of Bristol Bay, the most productive salmon habitat left on the planet. Bristol Bay provides spawning grounds to all five species of North American Pacific salmon. The Bristol Bay watershed supports the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the World.

The Kvichak River’s sockeye salmon production is off the charts, with more sockeye salmon than any other river in the world, while the Nushagak River is the fourth -argest producer of Chinook salmon (king salmon) in North America.

Bristol Bay’s wild salmon fishery and other ecological resources provide around 14,000 full- and part-time jobs and is valued at about $480 million annually. The average annual sustainable run of sockeye salmon is about 37.5 million fish.

If the Pebble Mine project is allowed to move forward, Bristol Bay’s salmon will be under serious threat, as will my job and the thousands of other fishing-related jobs up in Bristol Bay.

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That is why I commend the Environmental Protection Agency for conducting a science-based review of the Bristol Bay watershed, which it just released a draft of on May 17. Based on the science, it’s clear that large scale mining and wild salmon cannot coexist.

On behalf of Bristol Bay fishermen around the country, I urge the EPA and President Obama to defend our nation’s greatest wild salmon fishery and use its authority under the Clean Water Act to protect America’s jobs and seafood industry.

Given today’s economic situation, why would we destroy a renewable source of jobs and income and replace it with an environmental disaster Americans will be stuck cleaning up for generations?

You may be asking what does this have to do with me, here in Colorado? Well, if you eat sustainably caught wild Alaskan salmon, there’s a good chance it came from Bristol Bay’s fishery.

And now with all of the issues with farm-raised salmon, this is our chance to make the right decision for our generation and generations to come and say no to Pebble Mine!

I’ve been working with Elizabeth Dubovsky with Trout Unlimited’s “Why Wild Program” to bring a greater awareness of this monumental issue on our plate. Please look at these websites for more information: http://www.RenewableResourceFoundation.org; http://www.NoPebbleMine.org; article: “EPA releases for public comment draft scientific study of Bristol Bay watershed.”

Kaleb Walker

Gypsum