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ANCHORAGE- The first poll of commercial fisherman in Alaskaâ€™s Bristol Bay region found that an overwhelming majority â€“ 85 percent â€“ oppose the controversial Pebble Mine proposal.
Moreover, a near unanimous 96 percent believe that the headwaters of Bristol Bay should be protected for future generations. The poll, conducted by nonpartisan firm Craciun Research, surveyed 350 or over 10% of the commercial fishing permit holders, and has a margin of error of 5.2 percent.
“Overwhelmingly, Bristol Bay fishermen simply do not approve of the Pebble Mine. These are legitimate small business operators with employees. Their businesses depend on healthy salmon stocks, stocks which they see as being put at risk by the proposed mine. They strongly believe we must protect Bristol Bay and its abundant wild salmon,” said Bob Waldrop, Executive Director of Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. “The Pebble project threatens thousands of honest good-paying jobs, which are a major factor in the regional and state economy. Bottom line: salmon support us, we support salmon.”
The poll also found that 77 percent of respondents do not believe that the Pebble Mine and fishing can safely co-exist.
The proposed Pebble Mine – a partnership of Anglo American and Northern Dynasty – would construct one of North America’s largest open pit and underground mines at the headwaters to Bristol Bay, whose fishery supplies roughly 50% of the world’s annual sockeye salmon harvest.
Pete Andrew, local resident and commercial fisherman for 40 years said: “We appreciate the validity this poll brings to sentiments that we knew existed in the region. Many of us fish in Bristol Bay to make a living and support our families. Bristol Bay’s fishery is vital not only to the state’s economy, but is a matter of national food security and importance.”
To protect the salmon, sportsmen, Alaska tribes, native corporations and commercial fishermen petitioned the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to restrict or prohibit the disposal of mine waste in Bristol Bay’s pristine waters. In February 2011, EPA announced it has initiated awatershed assessment to evaluate the suitability of large-scale mining in Bristol Bay. More information on the EPA’s actions in Bristol Bay canbe found here.
Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association represents nearly 2,000 small businessmen (fishermen) and their 5,000 employees (crew members) that fish in Bristol Bay. The poll was commissioned by Alaska Conservation Foundation and conducted in May 21 – 31, 2011.