US Environmental Protection Agency proposes protections for major salmon fishery

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The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed protection for the Bristol Bay watershed in Alaska, the state’s richest commercial fishery, permanently banning the Pebble Mine.

In a statement released on Wednesday morning, the EPA announced it will use its authority under the Clean Water Act to veto the mine, siding with fishermen and local tribes in the region.

42 percent of the world’s harvest of wild salmon and 80 percent of the production of wild salmon species, such as sockeye, king and coho salmon come from Aslaskan waters. The state’s richest commercial fishery is Bristol Bay, with salmon being the most valuable commercial fish managed by Alaska, with one year alone seeing a harvest og all salmon species of approximately 43 million fish.

“Where that mine is is the spawning beds of the greatest salmon-producing rivers in the world,” Curyung tribal chief Tom Tilden told the US Congress earlier this month, pushing for a veto on the proposed gold and copper mine, set to be built by Pebble Limited Partnership.

The mining company had backed the proposal, claiming it would bring good salaries and other income to the region, arguing that its planned state-of-the-art mine design would have had no effect on Bristol Bay.

However, the EPA disagreed with the company’s claims. “Two decades of scientific study show us that mining the Pebble Deposit would cause permanent damage to an ecosystem that supports a renewable economic powerhouse and has sustained fishing cultures since time immemorial,” EPA’s new Region 10 administrator, Casey Sixkiller, said.

All five species of Pacific salmon, chum, coho, king, pink and sockeye, return to Bristol Bay to spawn in its rivers, with the waterways being an integral part of the state’s economy, providing thousands of jobs for Alaskans. Commercial fishing-related jobs roughly account for around 75 percent of local employment.