By Carl Safina and Elizabeth Brown
Last month, President Obama used his executive power to protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay from future oil and gas drilling. Bristol Bay is a 52,000 square mile area (roughly the size of Florida), north of the Aleutian Islands that the largest surviving salmon populations on Earth swim through on their way to and from the rivers where they were born and where they will spawn and die. President Obama said, “It’s something that is too precious for us to be putting out to the highest bidder.” 1
Bristol Bay provides 40% of America’s wild-caught seafood – worth $2 billion annually. It also supports numerous recreational and subsistence fisheries, and a large tourism industry.
Bristol Bay is best known for its abundant wild salmon. Each year, all five species of salmon – sockeye, coho, king, pink, and chum – return to Bristol Bay to breed. These events are referred to as “salmon runs.” The most abundant is the sockeye, with an average of 37 million sockeye flocking to its waters each year 2. In fact, Bristol Bay hosts the largest remaining sockeye salmon run in the world. In addition to salmon, Bristol Bay fishermen fish for several other important species including Alaska pollock, halibut, sablefish, and king crab.