The Bristol Bay Fly Fishing and Guide Academy: An Integrated River Education and Recreation Program. This weeklong, all-expenses-paid academy prepares young Bristol Bay community leaders with the knowledge and skills to serve as fly fishing guides and to uniquely engage in salmon conservation issues in their home communities.
For generations salmon have been the cornerstone of life in Bristol Bay, a remote part of Southwest Alaska often called the "salmon capital of the world." Tens of million Pacific salmon spawn in Bristol Bay every summer, creating the world's largest commercial wild salmon fishery and offering unparalleled fishing opportunities to thousands of avid sport anglers. Salmon are critically important to area residents – especially Alaska Natives - who practice a subsistence lifestyle. In many households, salmon comprise upwards of fifty percent of dietary consumption.
Interest in Bristol Bay continues to grow as visitors to Alaska seek more wild backcountry experiences; mining companies pursue large deposits of copper and gold in the area; and salmon populations in other parts of the world continue to decline. As more people visit and seek to develop the region for large-scale mining, pressures on and threats to Bristol Bay's healthy salmon habitat grow. Communities and land managers are facing tough decisions about what the future holds for Bristol Bay. Local residents, the majority of whom are Alaska Native, have a unique opportunity to lead salmon conservation efforts in their home rivers.
To strengthen Bristol Bay's economy and offer more employment choices for local youth, Trout Unlimited partners with the Nushagak-Mulchatna/Wood-Tikchik Land Trust, the Bristol Bay Native Corporation, and the Bureau of Land Management as well as local lodges and other organizations to help young Bristol Bay residents find jobs as fishing guides. TU does this by helping them develop necessary skills through the Bristol Bay Fly Fishing and Guide Academy, a weeklong training camp held in the region. 2011 marks the third year of the guide academy's operation.
What is the Bristol Bay Fly Fishing and Guide Academy?
The Bristol Bay Fly Fishing and Guide Academy is a non-formal conservation education program that merges salmon and river education, with recreation and conservation principles to educate, engage and inspire Bristol Bay youth to become local leaders in salmon stewardship. The course (offered at no charge) equips young residents (ages 15 to 22) with the knowledge, values and skills necessary to be fly fishing guides and conservation advocates in their communities. It also creates links between academy graduates and visitors to salmon and trout conservation issues in the region. The academy accomplishes this in two primary ways.
Upon leaving the course students are equipped with in-depth knowledge of salmon ecology, have explored and defined their own conservation values and are empowered to take action on behalf of salmon in their communities. Their new fishing skills strengthen their connection to the region's rivers and allow them to pursue jobs in the sport fishing industry as well.
With generous support from many organizations, gear manufacturers and individuals, TU and its partners launched the academy in 2008 and expanded it in 2010 and again in 2011. Because wild salmon are such an integral part of Bristol Bay's economy and culture, the academy hopes to play a significant role in teaching local young people about salmon ecology and conservation and instructing them in how they can be engaged in protecting the one of the world's most productive salmon strongholds.
The Bristol Bay Fly Fishing and Guide Academy will take place from May 29 to June 2, 2011. To read updates and watch video from the academy, check out www.savebristolbay.org. Also find us on Facebook and Twitter.
View a slideshow from the 2010 guide academy:
Read press coverage about the academy:
How can you get involved?
Learn more about the Bristol Bay Fly Fishing and Guide Academy by contacting Nelli Williams, TU's Alaska Program Special Projects Coordinator 907-230-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Photos: Clark James Mishler