Opinions

Put politics aside and salmon on the grill

Smack in the midst of an election season, let's set aside politics and instead talk about something we can all gladly agree on: Alaska wild salmon. Wednesday, Aug. 10, will be our first-ever Alaska Wild Salmon Day, and I want to encourage people across the state to make something festive and delicious of it.

Back in May, when Gov. Bill Walker signed the bill I sponsored to establish this annual celebration, I said that I hoped House Bill 128 would become "the law that lit 10,000 barbecues." I don't think that hope is unrealistic.

From the forests of Southeast to well above the Arctic Circle and hundreds of river miles into the Interior, Alaskans prize wild salmon. According to a survey conducted in 2011, 96 percent of us feel that salmon is essential to the Alaska way of life. None of our other natural resources plays such a universal role in our lives, and arguably no other is so nourishing and appetizing.

Profound appreciation for this great fish is something all of us share. Salmon subsistence fishing has sustained Alaska Native peoples for thousands of years. Sportfishing for salmon is regarded as a fundamental life pursuit by urban and rural residents alike. Commercial salmon fishing has been a mainstay industry in Alaska for well over a century, and what better time to launch Wild Salmon Day than during the summer that saw the two-billionth salmon harvested in Bristol Bay since the fishery was established there in 1884?

[ICYMI: Deja vu in Bristol Bay? Big red salmon run resembles last year's.]

Already, substantial festivities are in the works. At its Anchorage headquarters next Wednesday, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Bristol Bay Native Corp. is planning an Alaska Wild Salmon Day fish bake featuring live entertainment and fresh Bristol Bay sockeye. BBNC is also sponsoring an event in Dillingham put on by the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. and one in Naknek organized by the local village council.

In coming together to extol this extraordinary renewable resource, we can fortify our common resolve to protect the enormously productive ecosystems that sustain it. And with the tourist season still in full swing, these events can also help promote our salmon's deliciousness, purity and healthfulness to visitors to Alaska from the Lower 48 and around the world.

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I hope that people all over the state will follow BBNC's lead and plan events to celebrate this iconic fish's role in our pastimes, professions and ways of life. Next Wednesday, Aug. 10, gather family and friends, light up the barbecue or reach into the smokehouse and share a great feast on Alaska Wild Salmon Day 2016.

Rep.  Bryce Edgmon is chairman of the House Bush Caucus and represents House District 37, which includes communities in the Bristol Bay region and the Aleutian, Shumagin and Pribilof islands.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@alaskadispatch.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@alaskadispatch.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

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