We believe that the quality of our salmon directly reflects the health of the Bristol Bay eco-system. The State of Alaska actually has sustainable management of its fisheries written into its constitution, and the Alaska Department of Fish & Game’s biologists employ a “Fish First” model to ensure that Bristol Bay sockeye will be there to sustain local communities and nourish the world for generations to come. So what does this mean in practice?
Sockeye spend one to two years in the freshwater streams and lakes where they are born before swimming downriver out to sea, where they spend on average two to three years feeding and growing before returning during the summer months to the exact stream of their birth. Biologists constantly monitor dozens of streams and rivers with counting towers, sonar, and frequent helicopter and small plane flights and so have a real-time sense of the strength of the run at any given point and adjust their management strategies accordingly. There are minimum numbers of fish that they require to “escape” upriver, and in years with smaller runs of fish, they will close the fishery entirely until they’ve met these minimum escapement goals. Luckily for all of us, Bristol Bay’s sockeye runs are perennially very strong, and the region consistently produces almost half of the world’s annual supply of wild sockeye!
Unfortunately Bristol Bay is not immune from the threats of habitat destruction that have spelled the end of so many other fisheries worldwide, and there is currently a proposal by a consortium of British and Canadian mining companies to situate the largest open pit mine in the world, coyly dubbed the “Pebble” Mine, at the headwaters of two of Bristol Bay’s largest river systems. So far, local and state resistance to the plan has prevented its implementation, but the mere presence of the ore in the region makes Bristol Bay vulnerable to lobbying power of international mining conglomerates and the ebb and flow of national political currents. We believe the only way to combat this is by sharing Bristol Bay’s bounty outside of Alaska so that everyone can come to know and appreciate the value of one of the last great salmon runs on earth. Learn more here.
We hope that in years to come, Bristol Bay can serve as the model and inspiration for habitat restoration initiatives around the country and world as people become more aware of the sustainable imperative.