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Fraser salmon run no example of coexistence

COMPASS: Other points of view

By CAROL ANN WOODY

Published: March 13th, 2011 06:09 PM

Cynthia Carroll, the Pebble Limited Partnership’s CEO, recently came from London to assure Alaska’s Resource Development Council that salmon and open pit copper sulfide mining really can coexist. This caused me to consider all similar copper mines I know in salmon habitat in case I had missed a thriving example of coexistence. Let’s see … Iron Mountain Mine? No. Leviathan Mine? No. Formosa Mine? No … Perhaps this lack of U.S. examples is why proponents are touting Canada’s Fraser River as a demonstration of open pit copper mining and salmon coexistence. But is it really such an example?

Last year’s record high return of about 29 million sockeye to Canada’s Fraser River did leave scientists scratching their heads. But, as noted by Jeffrey Young, aquatic scientist for B.C.’s David Suzuki Foundation, “One good day for the stock market doesn’t mean the end of a recession.” And make no mistake, Fraser River sockeye salmon are “in recession.”

From 1956 to the early 1990s, annual Fraser River sockeye runs averaged about 8 million fish then began to decline. In six of the last 11 years, the sockeye fishery closed due to poor returns with TOTAL annual runs during 2007-2009 failing to exceed 2 million sockeye. Ninety-four Native communities that rely on Fraser sockeye for subsistence were encouraged by the Canadian government to develop a salmon-rationing plan in 2008, and subsistence harvest has been limited multiple years. So has sport harvest. Fraser River salmon declines triggered a $15 million federal judicial inquiry that began in 2009, making last year’s anomalous large run an as yet unexplained mystery. The probability of a similar large run to the Fraser in 2011 is practically zero.

In addition to abundance declines, Fraser River salmon biodiversity — a crucial trait that helps sustain fisheries — is also in decline. Of the many unique sockeye populations comprising the total Fraser sockeye run, one is critically endangered, three are endangered and another is vulnerable to extinction. Cultus Lake sockeye, the “critically endangered” population, went from an average run of 50,000 fish (1950-1995) to fewer than 3,000 over the last decade; they are expected to go extinct within the next 100 years. I would be surprised if the others mentioned did not follow suit.

Mining, pulp mills, agriculture, forestry, roads and other development in the Fraser River watershed all cause water pollution and regular violations of water quality standards for copper, zinc, lead, cadmium, chromium and many other pollutants toxic to salmon. Pollution contributions by source, i.e., tracing the amount due to mining, is data the Canadian government does not readily share. So I ask you, is the hype around “coexistence” valid here? Would you bet Bristol Bay on it?

Alaska, I offer you Bristol Bay. Pride of ownership should warm you all, as it truly is the most amazing, prolific, diverse, healthy sockeye salmon run left on the planet. Since 1956, annual Bristol Bay sockeye salmon runs averaged 29 million fish, in contrast to Fraser River sockeye runs that averaged 7 million fish. And that paltry 29 million fish run last year? The highest ever recorded for the Fraser? Well, Bristol Bay’s recent 40 million-plus annual sockeye salmon run helps put it all in perspective.

Dr. Carol Ann Woody is a former federal fisheries and wildlife scientist with over 20 years of Alaska experience and over 30 publications. She serves on the American Fisheries Society Environmental Concerns Committee, is adjunct faculty at UAF and owns and operates Fisheries Research and Consulting specializing in Bristol Bay research. www.fish4thefuture.com. She lives in Anchorage.

Read more: http://www.adn.com/2011/03/13/1753890/fraser-salmon-run-no-example-of.html#ixzz1GYSdztyp

By ELIZABETH BLUEMINK
ebluemink@adn.com

Published: February 7th, 2011 10:28 AM

The federal Environmental Protection Agency said today that it will review the suitability of large-scale development projects — such as the proposed copper and gold Pebble mine — in the Bristol Bay watershed.

The EPA said it is launching the review in response to petitions last year from tribes and other organizations opposed to Pebble. Those groups are worried about the potential impact of large-scale mining on Bristol Bay’s world-class salmon runs.

“The Bristol Bay watershed is essential to the health, environment and economy of Alaska,” said EPA Regional Administrator Dennis McLerran in a written statement.

“Gathering data and getting public review now, before development occurs, just makes sense. Doing this we can be assured that our future decisions are grounded in the best science and information and in touch with the needs of these communities,” McLerran said.

Though it rarely uses this authority, EPA can block waste discharges in areas it determines that development will result in too much harm to aquatic life, recreational areas and drinking water.

U.S. Rep. Don Young has filed legislation to remove EPA’s ability to block projects on that basis. Also, Gov. Sean Parnell last year sent a letter to the EPA opposing the Bristol Bay watershed review. Nine Bristol Bay tribes asked EPA to consider adding protections for the Bristol Bay Watershed under federal water pollution laws. Two other tribes asked the agency to delay any action on the matter until the companies seeking to develop Pebble apply for permits. The companies are not expected to submit permit applications until later this year at the earliest.

EPA said its review will focus on the Nushagak and Kvichak watersheds, both downstream of the Pebble deposit.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Read more: http://www.adn.com/2011/02/07/1688653/epa-to-review-bristol-bay-projects.html#ixzz1DJ20gNZX

Read Ryan’s latest, greatest and tax deductible trip that he lead to the world’s last frontier chasing the fish we cherish most. Envy does not even come close:

http://thebigpull.wordpress.com/

Almost Perfect

Very few people understand a Steelheader’s mentality and if you think about it who could blame them. To sit and reason as to why a person would fish Alaska in October in the first place and secondly how that person would be happy after not catching anything is futile at best. Sure it would have been nice if the one grab of the day was accompanied later by the beast brought to hand but it wasn’t meant to be. The big buck simply was not in the fighting mood and with a big shake of its head spit out my articulated fly like it was a mere pebble.

Rounding out the twosome for the day was good friend and long-time Alaskan Steelheader J who fished the same waters since the 80’s. His fish stories from year’s past told of much greater returns in which 10-15-20 fish days were more common than not. It was great to see someone so connected to a river. Even though the channels and holes have changed drastically since the last three decades and even from year-to-year, it is nice to know that for veterans and relative newbies alike the excitement never wanes.

Steelhead trout are Rainbows on roids. Commonly known as Metalheads for good reason, their mouths are built more like Permit and are nearly as hard as the rocks they tend to hide behind. Rarely will polarization help in spotting one. With the typical low-light conditions and a penchant for camouflage, Steelhead are as elusive before the catch as they are during a fight. The catch to grab ratio in the 25% range is a target with anything higher being a very good day on the water.

The starting temp was a chilly 17 degrees. We were met by an expanding sheet of ice on the banks and flowing slush in all but the main channels. Couple that with low water and pending blue bird skies and we knew we were in for a tough day. Ice build-up in all the guides, momentarily frozen-stuck reels and even iced-up line, leader and flies were a constant.

But for all of the day’s difficulties we were still out there chasing Steelhead. Besides, who knew that iced lines loaded a rod so perfectly?

First Light

It’s Time

The past five-plus months have been tough to say the very least. That’s 171 days of not fishing since the last trip in April. Sure there were some intermittent weekend trips to the cabin trolling for some Big Lake bows but swinging rivers is where it all matters. The Superbowl of swing arrives every fall with the arrival of the most revered of all sportfish, Steelhead. 

You can learn a whole lot about the fish by looking at who fishes for Steelhead. The common Steelheader is a sight to see. With a weatherbeaten face and deeply cracked hands they willingly submit to October and November storms without complaint so long as the chance of catching just one Steelhead remains. But with this submission to all that nature can throw at them comes a beauty felt by no other.

Chasing steelhead is an extreme sport in extreme conditions with a reward that more than compensates the truly devoted angler. Describing the grab in words does no justice. Imagine a fresh 18# coho cross-bred with a tarpon on meth and you start to get the idea. Bringing one to hand momentarily elevates your game to a place so gratifying that as soon as the rush wears away you are instantly obsessed to repeat. 

The time has come for yet another Steelhead trip and oh what a trip it will be.

Medicine’s Potential

Stepping aside from fly fishing for a moment…

Most of what you hear about Medicine and medical research today involve potential revenue and profits for the major players (big pharma, genetic research labs, medical research labs etc…). There has been a push for patents in everything from future pharmaceutical drugs to newly discovered and even yet undiscovered genes. It is refreshing then when true sharing of free data and research occurs with the combined goal of finding a cure to end disease. The end result of this collaborative effort is simple… we need more of it.

‘Rare Sharing of Data Leads to Progress on Alzheimer’s’

By GINA KOLATA, New York Times 8/12/10

In 2003, a group of scientists and executives from the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, the drug and medical-imaging industries, universities and nonprofit groups joined in a project that experts say had no precedent: a collaborative effort to find the biological markers that show the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in the human brain.

Now, the effort is bearing fruit with a wealth of recent scientific papers on the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s using methods like PET scans and tests of spinal fluid. More than 100 studies are under way to test drugs that might slow or stop the disease.

And the collaboration is already serving as a model for similar efforts against Parkinson’s disease. A $40 million project to look for biomarkers for Parkinson’s, sponsored by the Michael J. Fox Foundation, plans to enroll 600 study subjects in the United States and Europe.

The work on Alzheimer’s “is the precedent,” said Holly Barkhymer, a spokeswoman for the foundation. “We’re really excited.”

The key to the Alzheimer’s project was an agreement as ambitious as its goal: not just to raise money, not just to do research on a vast scale, but also to share all the data, making every single finding public immediately, available to anyone with a computer anywhere in the world.

No one would own the data. No one could submit patent applications, though private companies would ultimately profit from any drugs or imaging tests developed as a result of the effort.

For the rest of the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/13/health/research/13alzheimer.html?_r=1&hp

EPA chief hears mine opponents at Bristol Bay meeting

By MARGARET BAUMAN
Dutch Harbor Fisherman via The Associated Press

Published: August 4th, 2010 03:59 PM
Last Modified: August 4th, 2010 09:50 PM

DILLINGHAM — One by one, representatives of a dozen Southwest Alaska communities stood to tell the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of the threat they feel the massive Pebble mine prospect would pose to their way of life.

“If you take away who we are, our natural resources, that would be terminating us as a people,” Mary Ann Johnson from the tribal council of Portage Creek told EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson last week, during a listening session at Dillingham High School.

“The salmon have saved people from starvation,” said Dennis Andrew, of the village of New Stuyahok, noting the importance of the Bristol Bay watershed’s abundance to both people and wildlife. “It is so important that they continue to spawn in our waters.”

The event, billed by EPA as a listening session on the massive copper, gold, silver and molybdenum deposit that could be mined at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, attracted only opponents.

Supporters, including representatives of Iliamna Development Corp., who say the prospect poses a tremendous opportunity for economic development, were not in attendance.

Jackson had met earlier in Anchorage with representatives of the Pebble Limited Partnership, which has said it will invest up to $73 million in Alaska this year as part of its ongoing effort to advance the project. According to the Pebble Partnership, the mine prospect has one of the largest concentrations of copper, gold, molybdenum and silver in the world.

Those speaking to the EPA at the listening session spoke of other riches. They are the sons and daughters of Eskimo families who have inhabited this region for thousands of years, engaging in a subsistence lifestyle dependent upon the fish and sea mammals in the waters of Bristol Bay and a land bountiful in wildlife and berries.

“We lead a very rich lifestyle in a resource-rich area,” said Tom Tilden, first chief of the Curyung Tribal Council in Dillingham. “We can continue to live in this area as long as the resources are protected.”

“Bristol Bay is a national treasure that we must protect,” said Robin Samuelsen, president and chief executive officer of Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. “Bristol Bay is one of those rare areas where we should not mine.”

“We believe,” said Kimberly Williams, executive director of Nunamta Aulukestai, Caretakers of the Land, “that our life is just so worth protecting. We are not going to go away; we’re going to keep fighting” (to protect the Bristol Bay watershed).

Jackson, who holds a master’s in chemical engineering from Princeton University, opened the meeting with greetings from President Barack Obama. She told the group that Obama wants his administration to talk with tribes on a government-to-government basis.

She also told several dozen people gathered in the high school gymnasium “that there is no such thing as a choice between a job and clean water. You are entitled to both.”

Jackson, who grew up in coastal Louisiana, said life there was tough “but I will take my hat off to the people who make their living here,” a reference to the challenges of living in rural Alaska and the subsistence lifestyle.

The speakers’ list ranged from Jason Metrokin, president and chief executive officer of the Bristol Bay Native Corp., to Bella Hammond of Lake Clark, widow of former Gov. Jay Hammond, who received a standing ovation.

Others included former Alaska Senate President Rick Halford, a technical advisor to Nunamta Aulukestai and Trout Unlimited; Dillingham city planner Jody Seitz, and Anchorage attorney Jeff Parker, representing the community of Nondalton.

Major concerns voiced were the importance of maintaining pollution-free waters critical to subsistence and the Yup’ik Eskimo culture, as well as the multi-million dollar commercial and sport fishing industry.

Some focused on potential activities at the proposed mine that they believe could forever contaminate the watershed critical to all life in the region. Others contended that activities during the prospect’s exploration phase are damaging king salmon runs and causing many animals in the Mulchatna caribou herd to migrate elsewhere.

“Moose and caribou are an important part of our diet,” said Peter Christopher of New Stuyahok. Exploration activities at the mine site have scared off 75 percent of the Mulchatna herd, he said.

“The mine could affect the Nushagak, which is our aquifer,” Seitz said.

The city of Dillingham opposes Pebble, she said. “Fisheries are a critical piece of the economy.”

Many speakers also addressed a need for a closer relationship between the federal and tribal governments, and said the state does not support the tribes.

The listening session was preceded by a potluck luncheon featuring a number of popular area foods, including moose, salmon, duck, muktuk and fried bread, plus salads and large bowls of akutaq – Eskimo ice cream – filled with berries abundant in the region.

Read more: http://www.adn.com/2010/08/04/1395461/epa-chief-hears-mine-opponents.html#ixzz0vi4wfFF5

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