Sen. Cantwell: Bristol Bay vital to Washington business

By Shoren Brown

Sen. Maria Cantwell at a recent press conference in Seattle

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D, Washington, held a press conference at Fishermen's Terminal in Seattle on Wednesday to underscore the strong economic and historic ties between the Bristol Bay, Alaska sockeye salmon fishery and Washington state fishermen and businesses.

The Senator was joined by four Washington business leaders who further explained the many economic benefits that flow to Washington from the Bristol Bay fisheries. Norm Van Vactor, general manager of Leader Creek Fisheries, said that the seafood processing company employs more than 440 people during salmon season and relies entirely on Bristol Bay sockeye for supply. Commercial fisherman Ben Blakey described how his entire Washington-based family has made a living through the fishery for three generations now, and how fishermen like him spend thousands of dollars in the Washington economy on boat repairs, gear, supplies and services.

Larry Barrett, director of operations at Sage, discussed how the company's world-renowned fly rods are made on Bainbridge Island, supporting 180 employees - and making them the largest private employer on the Island. He added that 20 percent of the company's fly rods have been taken on a trip to Bristol Bay by sport fishermen.

Chef Kevin Davis of Blueacre Seafoods and Steelhead Diner, talked about how visitors seek out salmon in Seattle and how wild salmon is the foundation of Northwest cuisine and the No. 1 seller in his restaurants.

The Senator announced that she sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and others on Wednesday, asking the EPA to carefully weigh the many Washington jobs and businesses as it finalizes a Watershed Assessment of Bristol Bay and decides whether to use its Clean Water Act power to protect the watershed from mega industrial mining. Sen. Cantwell noted that thousands of Washington state jobs and $113 million per year in business depend on Bristol Bay, which supports the most productive salmon run in the world.

“This fishery is a unique and irreplaceable asset that supports tens of thousands of commercial and recreational fishing, boat building, outfitting, processing, restaurant, and support jobs. I will continue to fight to ensure any future large-scale development decisions in the Bristol Bay watershed are based on sound science,” said Senator Cantwell.

Shoren Brown is the director of TU's Save Bristol Bay campaign.

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