Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay encourage White House, EPA to release updated draft Bristol Bay watershed assessment by March 19th

March 5, 2013

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay has been supportive of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) watershed assessment for Bristol Bay, Alaska. Our group, supported by over 100 commercial fishing organizations and businesses from Alaska and around the country who believe Bristol Bay and its fishery must be protected, views EPA action as the best way to properly protect Bristol Bay forever. As you may know, Bristol Bay is responsible for 12,000 jobs and is home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.

We were disappointed, however by EPA’s recent announcement of a second peer review of the draft Bristol Bay watershed assessment, complete with an additional public comment period. While we support a thorough and complete process with as much public input as possible, an additional peer review and public comment period is both redundant and unnecessary. Moreover, additional review serves to create more uncertainty in our business entering the 2013 fishing season.
The men and women in our industry are particularly concerned with the timing of the second peer review and public comment period. Our work begins in late spring and continues virtually non-stop through the summer months. The timing of the second peer review could result in the public comment period occurring while the fishermen who would be most affected by the Pebble Mine are in the region earning their living.

The original Bristol Bay watershed assessment public comment period garnered over 225,000 responses in a 60-day period, with over 95% of the comments in support of the watershed assessment and EPA action to protect the fishery. To guarantee that Bristol Bay fishermen, as well as interested citizens from across the country, have the opportunity to make their voices heard once again on the issue, we urge the EPA to conclude its peer review and release the updated draft watershed assessment by March 19th. This will ensure that fishermen will be able to comment on the EPA’s work, and will keep the final assessment on track for an early-summer release.

Our request to expeditiously conclude the final draft of the watershed assessment is also rooted heavily in our economic concerns about further delay. Our entire industry, from fishermen, to processors, to suppliers, is already feeling the effects of the cloud of uncertainty created by the prospects of North America’s largest mine being built at the headwaters of Bristol Bay. The men and women who contribute to this over $1 billion annual industry are finding it difficult to make long-term business plans until the EPA concludes its process and clearly outlines the threats posed by the Pebble Mine.

We understand and support the EPA’s and your administration’s commitment to present a finished Bristol Bay watershed assessment that is beyond reproach. However, the initial draft watershed assessment clearly showed that a mine on the scale of Pebble would pose existential threats to the fish that call Bristol Bay home and the industry they support. We believe you can ensure the watershed assessment’s science is sound while enabling full participation from the commercial fishing community by quickly concluding the second peer review. Doing so would have the added benefit of removing much of the uncertainty our industry currently faces.

We look forward to working with your administration and the EPA as you conclude this important work to protect one of our country’s great fisheries in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Please do not hesitate to have any of your staff contact us should they have additional questions.


Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay

Cc: The Honorable Bob Perciasepe, Acting EPA Administrator Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality
Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change