SEATTLE (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – As the commercial fishermen who ply salmon-rich, southwestern Alaska pack away their fishing gear for the winter, many are watching anxiously as a controversial mine proposal moves through the federal permitting process.
On Tuesday, Alaskans will vote on an initiative that, if passed, would set stricter regulations for proposed infrastructure projects that affect salmon habitats.
Advocates for the measure hope it will derail Pebble Mine, the world’s biggest undeveloped gold and copper project, and which is slated for the region of Bristol Bay – the largest fishery for sockeye salmon globally. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing an environmental review of Pebble Mine, with preliminary results due in January.
Many of the commercial fishermen who make their living during the summer in Alaska’s Bristol Bay winter their boats 2,750 kilometers (1,709 miles) southeast at Puget Sound in Washington state in the northwestern U.S.
But, as residents of Washington state, they are not registered to vote in Alaska. That leaves them on the sidelines of the debate, even though their livelihoods depend upon the future of Bristol Bay.