Today, the Environmental Protection Agency used its Clean Water Act authority to put protections in place for Alaska’s Bristol Bay that effectively stop the Pebble Mine. The agency placed limits on mine waste disposal in the rivers, streams and wetlands of Bristol Bay that will protect the largest and most productive wild salmon fishery on Earth.
For over a decade, Bristol Bay Tribes, commercial fishermen and conservation organizations have urged the EPA to create durable protections for the Bristol Bay watershed to protect the salmon fishery. We are elated to celebrate this landmark victory.
The stakes couldn’t be higher.
Bristol Bay’s epic salmon runs are the ecological, cultural and economic backbone of the region, generating $2.2 billion in annual economic activity that supports 15,000 jobs, producing half of the world’s sockeye salmon, and sustaining a subsistence-based way of life for one of the last intact wild salmon-based cultures in the world.
While other salmon fisheries around the globe are in decline, Bristol Bay is breaking records. In 2022, nearly 80 million sockeye salmon returned to the Bay and its rivers, breaking the previous record of 67.7 million sockeye salmon set in 2021.
The long road to victory was paved by the leadership of Bristol Bay Tribes, and the efforts of millions of Americans, from all walks of life, who recognized the great wonder of this remarkable place.
Over the last two decades:
- Bristol Bay Tribes and commercial fishermen united in a common purpose, urging the EPA to protect the Bristol Bay salmon fishery.
- Millions of people spoke up in support of Bristol Bay protections.
- Major mining companies, including Anglo American, Rio Tinto and First Quantum, walked away from the project.
- Over a hundred jewelry retail companies, including Tiffany & Co., took a stand for Bristol Bay.
- Restaurants, grocery stores and food retail companies expressed support for protecting the world’s greatest salmon fishery.
- President Obama visited Bristol Bay, extolling the value of the fishery, and initiating the Clean Water Act protection process.
- Investors weighed in against the unprecedented risks of Pebble Mine.
- Numerous scientific reviews were completed that concluded that mining the headwaters of Bristol Bay would cause permanent harm to the ecosystem.
- The Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit for the mine, concluding that it was contrary to the public’s interest.
- Congressional champions, like Senator Cantwell and Representative Huffman, never gave up fighting for what’s right.
- Alaska’s two senators said Pebble Mine is Wrong Mine, Wrong Place.
- The Pedro Bay Corporation, an Alaska Native corporation and the owner of land sought by Pebble to develop for access to the proposed mine site, signed a conservation agreement to protect that land from development.
- Hundreds of businesses, large and small, urged Bristol Bay protection.
- President Biden promised protections during his election campaign.
Now, thanks to President Biden and the EPA, we can let out a sigh of relief knowing that this special place, its fishery, and the communities it supports from coast to coast will be protected for future generations.
Thank you, President Biden and the EPA for this momentous decision.