The Protection of Salmon and a Lifestyle Goes to Referendum in Alaska

Lifestyle Goes to Referendum in Alaska. The organization Support to the Salmon fights to take ahead the “Initiative 1”, directed to protect the habitat of the salmon and to put new limits to future megaprojects that affect the natural passage of this species

Referendum in Alaska
According to the “Yes to Salmon” organization, salmon streams do not recover and once a salmon nest is unearthed, it disappears forever.

The elections of the next 6 of November include a popular consultation in Alaska that it looks for to protect of the activity of mining and oil companies to its iconic salmon, that for many locals more than a fish, is a way of life.

The organization Salmon Support (Stand for Salmon), a diverse group of people, companies and organizations, is struggling to take forward “Initiative 1”, aimed at protecting salmon habitat and putting new limits on future megaprojects that affect the natural passage of this species.

Bristol Bay, with some of the largest undeveloped copper and gold deposits in the world, is where about 40 million salmon start their way upstream to spawn.

But Alaska’s fishing sector is no longer as powerful as it once was and the oil industry is now the engine of the local economy but the situation may get worse, because, according to the organization “Yes to Salmon,” salmon streams do not recover and once a salmon nest is unearthed, it disappears forever.

Nearly half of the world’s sockeye salmon is produced in Bristol Bay, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its fisheries provide employment for more than 32,000 Alaskans and generate $ 2 billion in economic activity each year.

The organization “Protect Salmon” (Stand for Salmon), states that this economic resource is at risk and the laws of 60 years ago, designed to protect the habitat of Alaskan salmon for future generations, have become obsolete and ineffective.

Mike Coumbe, director of the Conservation Alaska Foundation, one of the maximum defenders of this measure, tells Efe that salmon is the “key” of the regional economy and the “way of life of the people of Alaska.”

“It represents who we are and how we live,” says Coumbe, who stresses that, for this reason, a salmon habitat that suffers the effects of having “outdated and scarce laws that do not adequately protect communities that they depend on their livelihood. ”

He also explains that this fish is vital for the indigenous tribes, which account for 15% of the population of Alaska, according to census data, as well as salmon fishermen or sports fishing, “all sources” of the state economy.

The initiative, which hit the ballot after the Salmon Support group presented 49,500 signatures when only 32,127 were needed, aims to ensure that communities and rural economies can grow along with healthy salmon routes.

But in front, they have oil giants like Exxon Mobil and mining companies like Coeur Alaska and Hecla, and when it comes to raising funds for the campaign, there is a huge imbalance.

The campaign in favor of the initiative has raised close to one million dollars, while opponents, such as the organization “Support Alaska” (Stand for Alaska), have achieved more than eleven, with important contributions from oil and mining companies.

Kara Moriarty, president, and chief executive of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, told Efe that “there is no real problem with the salmon habitat” and that this measure offers “very poor arguments to defend its position.”

“The economic impact for the community in the area would be disastrous if this measure were to be carried out, not only for mines, oil companies or future development plans, but it would be devastating for small businesses,” he says.

Majority recalls that the oil and gas industry generates almost $ 2 billion a year in tax revenues only in Alaska.

And the region needs investments and work, since it is one of the areas with the highest unemployment rate in the country, with an estimated 6.5% last September, while the national index is 3.7%.

So in the November referendum, the Alaskans will decide which cousin in the wildest and most natural state of the country, whether the prospects of economic bonanza or a possible threat to the future presence of a salmon that connects them with the land and their ancestors.


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