How I Became a Fish Hugger

Bristol Bay, Alaska’s salmon fishery is at risk. What can you do?
I almost threw up my hands in hopelessness, but then I learned that there is a way for us to stop human greed from destroying yet another of our Earth’s precious natural resources.

I came to the conclusion recently that the food movement didn’t want me. There are plenty of problems in our current food system I wanted to get behind (pink slime, childhood obesity, the Farm Bill), but in all of my attempts to get involved I could never find a concrete opportunity to make a difference. But then recently, a strange transformation happened.

I became a fish hugger.

Let me clarify, this has nothing to do with any kind of affection for the animal kingdom. Show a stray dog floating through an abandoned street after a flood or even a caged chicken, and our hearts go collectively out to them. But fish? They’re just not that... cuddly.

How to Save Bristol Bay Slideshow

So how did this happen? Since January, I’ve been involved in a campaign to save Bristol Bay, Ala.’s wild salmon population. My involvement, at first, was mandatory — it was my job with Sea to Table. Sea to Table has been partnering with Save Bristol Bay in its campaign by getting its chef partners involved. But now I’m convinced it’s a cause that we all need to get behind, whether or not you have an activist bone in your body.

Wild salmon is scarce these days, but every summer more than 40 million salmon return to the rivers of Bristol Bay, Ala., to spawn. Bristol Bay is one of those rare places that have been left untouched by human development, with entire communities depending on the salmon run for their way of life. Call it bad luck or fate, but Bristol Bay is also home to a huge deposit of copper, gold, and molybdenum. You can bet that has piqued the interest of some powerful corporations.

A mining conglomerate called the Pebble Limited Partnership wants to build North America’s largest open pit mine in the headwaters of Bristol Bay. In case you’ve never seen one, an open pit mine is essentially a huge hole in the Earth used to extract precious metals. A mining project of that scale would have severe impacts on Bristol Bay’s delicate fish habitat.

I almost threw up my hands in hopelessness, but then I learned that there is a way for us to stop human greed from destroying yet another of our Earth’s precious natural resources. The EPA has recently released a draft assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed, opening up a public comment period that lasts until July 23. A government agency has turned to us, the American people, for our opinion on whether we want harmful mining activities to take place in Bristol Bay. This is our chance, right now, to speak out.

It’s not often that we have a real chance to prevent a disaster from happening. That’s a main reason why I’m willing to step up when it comes to Bristol Bay salmon. I, we, can stop Pebble Mine, and it doesn’t require strapping ourselves to the potential mine site. It’s usually not this easy to make a difference, but in this case, it’s a no-brainer.
 

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