Prominent West Coast chefs are supporting Trout Unlimited Alaska’s “Vote with Your Fork” campaign. The goal is to raise awareness among food lovers about the value of Bristol Bay wild salmon and the threats they face from the large-scale hard rock mining in the Bristol Bay watershed.
A consortium of mining companies, led by London-based Anglo American, wants to open what would be one of the world’s largest open-pit mines in the very place where the salmon spawn. The controversial project , dubbed Pebble, entails the development of an enormous storehouse of gold, copper and molybdenum that lies buried under the headwaters of the Nushagak and Kvichak Rivers, the biggest producers of Bristol Bay salmon. A wide variety of stakeholders, including fishermen, subsistence users, local residents and tribal leaders, oppose the project, citing concerns over acid mine drainage, industrial accidents, and the industrialization of a pristine watershed that produces up to 70 million wild salmon a year.
High-profile chef Alice Waters of Berkley, Calif.’s Chez Panisse restaurant, has become an outspoken advocate for preserving Bristol Bay salmon from the risks of mining.
“Wild salmon is without a doubt one of nature’s perfect foods. Anyone sitting down to their table to enjoy a perfect fillet of Bristol Bay sockeye salmon should pause and feel thankful for the pure Alaska rivers that spawned it,” said Waters.
In addition to giving thanks, Paul Johnson thinks consumers should help preserve Bristol Bay salmon by voting with their fork. For the San Francisco fish wholesaler and author of “Fish Forever: The Definitive Guide to Understanding, Selecting, and Preparing Healthy, Delicious, and Environmentally Sustainable Seafood,” voting with one’s fork means insisting that restaurants and retail outlets carry Bristol Bay salmon.
“It’s our moral obligation to protect these fish and that means supporting this sustainable fishery by choosing Bristol Bay salmon,” said Johnson. “If we allow this Pebble mine to go in, the same thing that happened to us down here in California is going to happen in Alaska. The salmon won’t survive.”
A group of Seattle chefs has also recently weighed in. The board of Seattle Chefs Collaborative, a non-profit that works with chefs and others to foster a sustainable food supply, recently voted unanimously to support the efforts of Trout Unlimited to protect Bristol Bay’s salmon. Trout Unlimited, a coldwater fisheries protection group with offices in Alaska, is helping raise awareness about the risks of the Pebble mine project and to protect Bristol Bay. Trout Unlimited’s Alaska office and the Seattle chefs are working collaboratively to get as many restaurants as possible to feature Bristol Bay salmon on menus this summer.
“We want to empower consumers to know that they can heavily influence what ends up happening to Bristol Bay. Whether it’s eating Bristol Bay wild salmon or writing a letter to Gov. Sarah Palin and letting her know that the Pebble mine should not be developed, everyone can play a part” said Elizabeth Dubovsky, an organizer with Trout Unlimited in Juneau.