by Laine Welch
It came as no surprise when the first price postings last week tanked for Bristol Bay sockeye salmon to $1.20/lb, with an extra 15 cents for chilled fish. That compares to a base price of $1.50 a pound last year.
The Bristol Bay catch topped 28 million reds by Friday — 11 million more than projected — and the fish were still coming. (Alaska’s total sockeye salmon catch as of July 18 was over 37 million and counting.)
Demand for the fish is strong by both foreign and US buyers, but the downward press on prices stems from lots of competing red salmon rivals in the works this year.
Russia’s sockeye salmon catches topped 31 million in early July, and that number will go higher. The largest sockeye return in 100 years is expected on British Columbia’s Fraser River; up to 75 million fish.
If the Fraser run fizzles, it could mean some nice retro payments for Alaska salmon fishermen months from now. But it remains to be seen how all the sockeye dynamics play out in global markets.
First Alaskans, fishermen and sportsmen around the country applauded the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to impose restrictions on large scale mining operations in the Bristol Bay region, such as the proposed Pebble Mine.
A draft report released last week said development of such a mine would have “unacceptable adverse impacts” to the Bristol Bay watershed, and that action is necessary “to protect the world’s greatest salmon fishery” from what the EPA called “an open pit for copper and gold extraction nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon.”
The EPA began an official push in February to protect the Bristol Bay watershed from large scale mining. In May, Pebble owners sued to stop EPA from shutting down the mining project, and the State sided with Pebble in the lawsuit.
EPA administrator Dennis McLerran said on Friday that the agency’s action is not a “preemptive veto” before the mine owners apply for a permit.
Using its authority under the Clean Water Act, the EPA proposes to ban any mine that would destroy more than five miles of salmon streams, or 19 miles of tributaries; fill in 1,100 or more acres of wetlands, and reroute flows of salmon streams.
Public meetings in Alaska are scheduled in August. Deadline to comment on the EPA report is Sept. 19.
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