Bristol Bay Salmon: A “Vitally Important Economic Engine”

New Economic Report Confirms Bristol Bay’s Salmon Stronghold Remains No Place for the Pebble Mine

Bristol Bay, Alaska’s legendary salmon runs provide extraordinary economic value, a new report found. The report quantified the economic benefits of Bristol Bay’s wild salmon, which generate $2.2 billion in value, support 15,000 American jobs, and supply 57 percent of the world’s sockeye salmon. Bristol Bay’s wild salmon are also the lifeblood of Alaska subsistence culture, providing food security to the region.

The report, titled The Economic Benefits of Bristol Bay Salmon,” was produced by McKinley Research Group and released by the Bristol Bay Defense Fund—a coalition, including NRDC, working to protect Bristol Bay from the proposed Pebble Mine.

The report demonstrates, once again, that Bristol Bay’s wild salmon are an economic powerhouse—and that its pristine waters are no place for the billions of tons of toxic mining waste proposed by the Pebble Mine.

Bristol Bay supports the largest wild salmon fishery on the planet and provides more than half of the world’s wild sockeye salmon. Last year alone, more than 57 million salmon returned to Bristol Bay.

Bristol Bay salmon provide the foundation of a robust, renewable, and sustainable economy, including commercial, sport, and subsistence fishing; sport and subsistence hunting; and recreation and tourism—generating $2.2 billion annually and more than 15,000 jobs. Salmon have also sustained Alaska Native communities for thousands of years, providing subsistence food, subsistence-based livelihoods, and the lifeblood of culture.

The report comes as Tribes, commercial fishermen, and environmental groups like NRDC call upon President Biden and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use its authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to stop the Pebble Mine.

According to the report, Bristol Bay wild salmon are an “abundant, perpetual resource that are a vitally important economic engine, the foundation of indigenous cultural systems, and play a critical role in the regional ecosystem.”

Bristol Bay salmon:

  • Generate more than $2.2 billion in value, supporting tourism, seafood harvest and processing, and a host of support sector businesses.
  • Provide income, directly or through indirect and induced impacts, for more than 15,000 Americans.
  • Deliver food and cultural sustenance for more than 700 households in the Bristol Bay region.
  • Act as an ecological pump, carrying rich marine nutrients deep into regional watersheds where they feed a host of animals and biological processes.
  • Are enjoyed by consumers in dozens of countries, distributing the benefit of this resource across the globe.

Former President Obama described Bristol Bay as “one of Alaska's most powerful economic engines and one of America’s greatest national treasures.”

On the campaign trail, President Biden called Bristol Bay an “economic powerhouse that supplies half of the world’s wild sockeye salmon.”

But the Pebble Mine would risk it all.

If built, the proposed Pebble Mine—and its billions of tons of toxic mining waste—would threaten Bristol Bay’s salmon. Unprecedented in size and impact, the Pebble Mine has generated unparalleled opposition from Alaska Natives, Tribes, Bristol Bay residents, businesses, commercial fishermen, sportsmen, faith-based organizations, jewelers, chefs, conservation and environmental groups, and from people around the world, citing its environmental, social, and economic risks.

According to President Biden, Bristol Bay “is no place for a mine. The Obama-Biden Administration reached that conclusion when we ran a rigorous, science-based process in 2014, and it is still true today.”

This report provides President Biden with an additional 2.2 billion reasons to stop the Pebble Mine and permanently protect Bristol Bay.

About the Authors

Taryn Kiekow Heimer

Deputy Director, Marine Mammal Protection Project, Nature Program

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