Shannyn Moore: Three cheers for the Salmon Party - and keep Pebble out of the stream

commentAugust 24, 2013 

I fell completely in love with an ad campaign. I know. Between the halibut haters at Domino's and "The Salmon Project," I should have whiplash.

The campaign is brilliant. It's got a fantastic kiss mark with a salmon in it! If I were a tattoo girl, that would be my pick. It's genius. Salmon is more than something on a plate -- it's a lifestyle.

I first noticed all this when I stopped to get supplies at the Seward Safeway on the way to my very own salmon project: Operation "Acrobatic Coho!" (Mission accomplished. Thanks for asking!)

Even if you don't like to eat salmon -- wait -- seriously! A million ways to fix it and you haven't found one yet? I'm letting this go for now but come on!

The ad campaign is brilliant because Alaskans, even non-salmon-eaters, realize the iconic place of those fish in our state. Can you think of a town not on a river or coastline? I can't say there isn't one but clearly we've settled where our food swims by.

Thousands of people travel to the Kenai River to combat-fish for their freezers. We stimulate the economy with purchases of dip nets, freezer bags, bug dope and sunscreen. Charter operators are busy all over the state. Fly-fishing guides blow the minds of their clients all day long.

Then there's the commercial fleets. Southeast Alaska will have landed 80,000,000 salmon this summer -- that's not pounds, folks, that's fish.

Bristol Bay hums along supplying more than half the world's sockeye salmon. We all know someone who makes a living somewhere in that supply chain.

"Friends Don't Let Friends Eat Farmed Salmon" is a popular bumper sticker. Why? Because farmed salmon make wild fish sick, and we think that's bad.

As I write this, and stir the wood chips in the smoker, my dear Alaskans, I wish we could all join a Salmon Party. Throw out politics altogether under the banner of Alaska salmon. Maybe that's a bit much, but I've never been cranky with a fish on my line. What if the biggest split in our politics was wet brine versus dry brine? (Never mind, those fights can get pretty heated.)

This week Bristol Bay salmon and the Pebble Project are getting a visitor.

I welcome Gina McCarthy to Alaska. She's the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency -- yes the same agency so routinely, and unfairly, vilified by some of Alaska's leaders.

I'm determined to resist the temptation to grab her, hug her and say something along the lines of "Help us, Obi-Wan, you're our only hope!"

Okay, that's a joke but her visit to Bristol Bay isn't. The EPA's involvement was requested by Alaskans -- specifically, the Alaskans who would be most directly affected by a Pebble mine development. (Initially, "nine Bristol Bay Tribes, the Bristol Bay Native Corporations, other tribal organizations and many groups and individuals ...")

After Frank Murkowski gutted our project permitting process, we lost the brakes on the bus. There is no longer an option for the state to say, "No, that's an insane idea -- you can't do it." Instead, we get a boomer-booster chorus singing: "What could go wrong?" That's why an EPA review of the idea of a giant copper mine in the middle of salmon heaven is crucial.

Bindigo is a gold-mining town in Australia. Right now its residents are trying to figure out how to clean up the mess left from mining. The town has an estimated 40 to 50 tons of arsenic and another 50 tons of dissolved salts they are struggling to keep out of their groundwater. The smell of rotten eggs is hurting tourism. (Who could have foreseen that?)

Pebble developer Anglo-American has one of the worst records in the world for mining disasters. Its resume includes 220 miners killed in a five-year period.

I think we need at least three locks on the door between the Bristol Bay watershed and giant multinational mining companies like Anglo-American.

Lake and Pen borough residents did what they could: They passed an initiative to prevent any harm to salmon habitat. (So of course Capt. Zero has state lawyers in court trying to pick that lock.)

Then the state needs a governor who actually means it when he says he "won't trade one resource for another."

And, finally, federal jurisdiction needs to be a deadbolt against damage to an ecosystem that is one of the true wonders of the world.

That's my idea of Salmon Love.


Shannyn Moore's radio program can be heard from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday on KOAN 1020 AM and 95.5 FM radio.

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