While most of us are gearing up for summer vegetables and barbecues, our friend Christopher Nicolson and his family are packing up to make the long trek to Bristol Bay, Alaska for salmon fishing season. “We grew up fishing with my parents, that’s just what my family did,” says Nicolson, and the tradition goes back even further. His mother, a native Alaskan, can trace her family’s fishing roots around the Kenai Peninsula back hundreds of years, and the family continues to fish from the same Graveyard Point set-net camp Nicolson’s grandfather homesteaded in the 1940’s. Like the forty million salmon returning each year to the Bristol Bay watershed, these fishermen take part in a cycle that has endured for millennia.
The story of Christopher Nicolson and his family is one we tell often, one that illustrates perfectly the connection between traditional fishing communities, well-managed wild fisheries, and good fish. But it’s a story we may not be able to tell for long. Bristol Bay, the largest and most sustainable source of wild salmon in the world, provider of tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of income for people around the country, is in jeopardy. The specter that looms is the proposed Pebble Mine project, which, according to the EPA’s most recent assessment, would destroy salmon habitat, spread toxic waste into the ecosystem, and change the face of Bristol Bay as we know it.
The best thing we can do to protect Bristol Bay salmon is to eat it, and demonstrate with our choices that we value pure, natural food and healthy communities more than gold. We witnessed top tastemakers do just that this weekend at Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Cooking for Solutions event, where our Bristol Bay sockeye salmon was proudly served to hundreds of guests. It was great to see Bristol Bay salmon in the spotlight at this celebration of sustainable food, but we can take a stand for salmon year-round. Our friend chef Evan Mallett put it best, “Whether we like it or not, food is politics. What we eat reflects our values.” Take a moment to speak out and tell the EPA what you think of the proposed Pebble Mine. And if you really want to make a difference, pick up your fork.