Bristol Bay is among the most productive ecosystems in the world. It is also synonymous with commercial fisheries where local communities and businesses rely on wild-caught salmon for their livelihoods and local economy. After years of standing against the Pebble Mine project, the
Bay communities are leading the way for permanent protection for this iconic Alaskan ecosystem through the Bristol Bay Victory Challenge (BBVC).
“Local and global communities have pursued the permanent protection of Bristol Bay for decades due to its centrality in the lives and identities of western Alaskan cultures. This initiative also recognizes and safeguards the unmatched economic and nutritional value of Alaskan salmon fisheries for businesses and people. At WWF, we are thrilled to join the Bristol Bay Victory Challenge to continue working together towards long-awaited permanent protection for this unique watershed and its communities.”Steve MacLean, Managing Director of the US Arctic Program at WWF.
WWF recently joined the BBVC, a five-year USA $50 million catalytic fundraising effort to achieve permanent protection for this extraordinary watershed and the wildlife it supports while driving large-scale investment in the sustainability and prosperity of Bristol Bay and its people. This Indigenous-led initiative looks to secure private, regulatory, and legislative protection for land in the Bristol Bay watershed and provide sustainable economies for the communities around Lake Iliamna.
WWF and other BBVC partners committed to jointly raise funds to achieve BBVC goals including protecting private and public land around Lake Iliamna, pursuing legislative and regulatory changes to protect the entire Bristol Bay watershed, and partnering with communities in the region to build sustainable communities and economies.
The Bay provides hundreds of millions of nutritious, sustainable meals to local Bristol Bay residents, Americans, and the world through the sustainable harvest of sockeye salmon alone. The watershed supports the largest sockeye salmon run in the world, producing about 46% of the world’s wild sockeye harvest. Bristol Bay’s sockeye salmon harvest amounted to nearly 60 million metric tons in 2022, a record year and 26% more than had ever been caught in a single Bristol Bay season. The fishery generates $2.2 billion in annual economic revenue and sustains 15,000 jobs throughout the United States annually.
Prioritizing the Protection of Pedro Bay Rivers
The most immediate need for the BBVC is securing protection for private Native-owned land around Pedro Bay. In 2021 the Pedro Bay Corporation, an Alaska Native Corporation, agreed to place a conservation easement on a critical 44,000 acres of land that encompass four major salmon producing rivers in the Pedro Bay region on the east end of Lake Iliamna, known as the Pedro Bay Rivers Project.
“The community of Pedro Bay and the Pedro Bay Corporation are glad to finally see this project coming to fruition on the Pedro Bay Rivers. The proposed easements bisect the route for the northern road that Pebble Mine developers proposed to transport ore from the mine to a shipping port on Cook Inlet. This easement will put a literal and figurative roadblock on the development of Pebble Mine, and support a local, Indigenous community that has been steadfast in opposition of the Pebble Mine.”Matt McDaniel, the CEO of the Pedro Bay Native Corporation.
Recently, the Biden administration indicated its intention for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to prohibit disposing mine waste or tailings in the proposed Pebble Mine footprint to protect important salmon rivers and habitats. This positive step provides WWF and BBVC partners the opportunity to close the conservation easement in Pedro Bay and pursue the regulatory and legislative protections for the whole Bristol Bay watershed, helping to secure sustainable economies for the communities around Lake Iliamna.
The watershed supports the largest sockeye salmon run in the world, producing about 46% of the world’s wild sockeye harvest. The fishery generates $2.2 billion in annual economic revenue and sustains 15,000 jobs throughout the United States annually.
WWF will continue to work with partners in the BBVC, and Alaska Native communities and stakeholders to raise funds to close the Pedro Bay Rivers Project by the end of 2022.