Foundation hopes to give Bristol Bay fishermen a united voice

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April 28th | Lawrence Hamilton, The Bristol Bay Times-Dutch Harbor Fisherman

A commercial fishermen's advocacy group is hoping to make a splash and give the region's fishermen a seat at the table in the Pebble Mine proposal. Sustaining Bristol Bay Fisheries (SBBF) announced its formation last week as an organization with a mission statement to amplify the commercial fishing voice in the efforts to protect the Bristol Bay fishery.

Project director Kristina Andrews says the group is working hard to show that commercial fishermen are almost unanimously opposed to Pebble and other mines in the region.

Regarding the Pebble proposal, Andrews says "there is a huge gap when comes to issues regarding habitat and fisheries and there is no one at the table right now to represent commercial fishermen."

"We really want to remind people that the commercial fishing fleet is strongly opposed to the Pebble project."

Andrews hopes the organization grows in the future and she plans on getting around Dillingham and out to King Salmon and Naknek this summer to keep fishermen informed.

"We want to get the foundation off the ground, collect memberships, stay on top of current events and keep commercial fishermen up to date," she said.

Other committee members echoed these sentiments.

"SBBF is an organization of fishermen who are invested in ensuring that our world-class sustainable resource is here for generations to come," says SBBF Advisory Committee member Paul Hansen of Naknek.??"The Bristol Bay commercial fishing industry, pumping over 1.5 billion dollars in revenue annually into the American economy, providing 14,000 jobs, and sustainably harvesting the last great sockeye salmon fishery in the world?needs to be at the table when it comes to protecting Bristol Bay's world-class fishery from threats like the Pebble Mine. SBBF is an organization of fishermen who are invested in ensuring that our world-class sustainable resource is here for generations to come," Hansen said.

Messages of support for the SBBF have been given from across the region.

Bristol Bay Native Corporation's CEO Jason Metrokin pointed to the importance of the commercial fishing industry to the economic and social fabric of Bristol Bay, and said that the advocacy group is "both necessary and important."

Norm Van Vactor, president of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation said the people of Bristol Bay need a strong voice to look after the resources that make life here possible.

"It is our responsibility to take care of the salmon that take care of us," Van Vactor said. "The efforts of SBBF address ?critical nee?to advocate for the protection of our local fisheries?Continued participation i?reliable fisheries ar?critical to the sustained health of our communities, our environment, and our economies.?

Bristol Bay Native Association President and CEO Ralph Anderson said it is important to protect Bristol Bay's resources from large scale development.?

"Bristol Bay's commercial fishing fleet and our communities have been united in the fight to protect our shared resource from large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay region," Anderson said.

"We are in full support of SBBF's efforts to unite and amplify the commercial fishing voice as it is a critical part of our region's economy.?

SBBF is guided by an advisory committee of Bristol Bay commercial fishermen and is headquartered in Dillingham. For more information, visit SBBF on Facebook or contact Kristina Andrews at