Bristol Bay Oil Leases

bristol bay salmon-jj-001

Alaska’s Bristol Bay is the world’s most productive fishery – 40% of all wild fish eaten in America are pulled from these waters. So it is a puzzlement to many of us that the Minerals Management Service (MMS) is considering an oil lease that would open up a large portion of Bristol Bay to offshore oil drilling – or that there would even be a debate about this ill-conceived proposal.

Unfortunately there is a debate and it is pitting the fishermen against the oil men. The stakes are high, so today I find myself in Seattle Washington at the Pacific Marine Expo talking about the acoustical impacts of offshore oil extraction on commercial fisheries – focusing on seismic airgun surveys and the noise of seafloor processing equipment (see http://ocr.org/research/impacts/SeafloorProcessing.pdf ).

The Pacific Marine Expo is a trade show that caters to commercial fishermen with exhibits by manufacturers and representatives of marine engines, nets and winches, refrigeration and processing equipment, power trains, boats, hooks and line, sonars and communications equipment, and net navigators – to name a few.

I was honored to be on a presentation panel with Norwegian fisherman Ian Kinsey, Eskimo fisherman Tom Tilden, John Goll with Minerals Management Service, Crabber Keith Colbum and Alaskan “catcher boat” captain Brent Paine. We ‘held court’ for a couple of hours to a largely supportive audience of Alaska Fishermen, and a few oil men.

My thanks go out to David Aplin from World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) and Kelly Harrell of Alaska Marine Conservation Council (AK Marine) who coordinated the event and hosted the post-presentation reception. The whole affair, including my expenses were sponsored by WWF and AK Marine, who are doing all they can do to save a vital and abundant fishery from the pillaging of the oil men.

I will let you know when the Environmental Impact Statement needs our input. Stay tuned. Meanwhile please let me know if you want to track this issue and I will send you links to media, power points and other ‘collateral’ about the preservation of our nation’s most productive fishery.