OPINION: A Gold Rush in Salmon Country – by Brendan Jones (New York Times – November 24, 2017)


SITKA, Alaska — It is almost winter again here. The days shorten and the furrows of the volcano that looms over our town steadily fill with snow. At night my daughters and I watch northern lights dance green across a mountain ridge as we wait for our salmon to thaw for dinner.

In the courts there is a case in which the defendant, a fisherman, claims his cloth measuring tape constricted in the cold, causing him to mismeasure his halibut. In another case a fisherman blames his freezer for shrinking a king salmon. Alaska state troopers disagree. Life continues apace.

When I’m not working on our tugboat, I fish with Eric Jordan, a second-generation troller whose parents, like those of so many seasoned fishermen around here, fought for Alaskan statehood so salmon could be better managed. We work the winter line, stretching between Cape Edgecumbe Light and Point Woodhouse.

The salmon, chromatic shifts of light prowling the kelp forests, have slowed down by this time of year. Smoked, canned, stacked in the freezer like cordwood, their pumpkin-orange meat sustains us, as it has sustained the Tlingit community on this island for 10,000 years.

The other day, during a slow stretch on the boat, Eric brought up the issue of Pebble Mine. “It makes you want to give up hope, doesn’t it?” he asked.

He was talking about renewed efforts to build a mine at the headwaters of one of the world’s last wild salmon nurseries, at Bristol Bay in southwestern Alaska. Northern Dynasty Minerals, a Canadian company that wants to construct the mine, estimates that 100 million ounces of gold rest beneath the native spawning grounds.

For the rest of this opinion column: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/24/opinion/sunday/gold-mine-salmon.html