The Industry – AFFTA Steps up as Always
The Seattle Chamber of Commerce is a big deal on the West Coast, representing billions of dollars of tech, coffee, fish, shipping, aero-space, mining, construction and the recreation industry.
So when the Seattle Chambers Alaska division decided to have a debate between representative from the Pebble Partnership and the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, I knew we needed to be in the room. We, as in the outdoor and sportfishing industry, which is huge business in Seattle: think Sage, Filson, REI, ExOfficio, etc.
A flurry of emails to and from the outdoor industry folks in Seattle was proving fruitless, and not because these guys were not dedicated to the cause. They actually started the “who is going to be there?” e-mails, but because everyone is very busy. Ben Bulis, president of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association, decided it was worth a flight from Bozeman to be in the room.
Who better to represent us in front of a big city chamber than AFFTA? Who better to ask of the Pebble Partnership, “Sports Fishing represents a billion dollar industry and nearly a million U.S. jobs, and the Bristol Bay fishery has a $100 million annual value and a 1,000 jobs. What guarantee can Pebble give our industry that the mine will not harm the fishery?” than Ben Bulis of AFFTA?
This was the question Ben asked, in front of shipping companies, mining interest, single vessel commercial fishermen and some of the largest seafood processors and grocers in the world.
John Shively of the Pebble Partnership hesitated for a second and explained that Bristol Bay was a big place and the Pebble Partnership “could not destroy every stream in Bristol Bay, even if we tried.”
Please note the mine is proposed at the headwaters of the two largest fisheries in the Bay. This was followed by a hard question from a large seafood processor to Mr. Shively, “We are against the Pebble project, after seven years of saying you are going to apply for permits soon, when are you going to apply for permits?”
The processor took a moment to quote Senator Murkowski on the uncertainty and divisiveness Pebble is causing among people and industries in Alaska.
AFFTA President Ben Bulis with Scott Hed of SAA, volunteering at this year's Simms Ice Out.
This post is not so much about Bristol Bay, as it is our industry, or the industry our efforts support. It is such a wonderful two-way street. The fly fishing Industry gives through donations and grants; we give each time we stop by our local shop.
AFFTA is a pretty cool deal and has been hugely supportive as long as I have worked in conservation. It's members are always willing to do things like jump on a plane to Washington, D.C., to testify, or fly out to an important meeting on a tarpon issue in Florida, or to represent the industry at a Seattle hearing.
In the past two years I have seen Ben in Washington, D.C., and Seattle to help on Bristol Bay. It also does things like help guides and outfitters get insurance, promote the sport through the International Fly Tackle Dealer Show each year, and is constantly working to make shops and manufacturers better and the industry and sport stronger.
So, thanks Ben. Your presence was noticed and appreciated.