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January 26, 2013

Sharing concerns for fisheries

Local fishermen hear of Alaska threat, too

Fishermen from Gloucester and Alaska fish drastically different areas during different times of the year, but one thing is for certain:

They’re all in the same boat when it comes to defending and protecting an industry under siege from many sides.

That was one of the messages echoed Friday when Katherine Carscallen, captain of the fishing vessel Sea Hawk based out of Dillingham, Alaska, met with Gloucester fishermen and supporters of the commercial fishermen at a get-together organized by Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association President Angela Sanfilippo.

Carscallen, a 27-year-old native of Dillingham, represents numerous commercial fisheries throughout Alaska and worked together with the GFWA and local fishermen.

On Thursday, Carscallen was joined by Sanfilippo — who also serves as president and executive director of the Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership — and local fishermen meeting with Congressman John Tierney in Carscallen’s effort to gain support for the growing concern of a proposed mine that would threaten the Bristol Bay and surrounding salmon runs in Alaska.

Carscallen said Bristol Bay is responsible for about 60 percent of the world’s sockeye salmon production, an industry that generates roughly $500 million annually and represents about 12,000 jobs. But the pebble mine, proposed by Northern Dynasty Minerals and Anglo American, would sit near Iliama Lake and numerous rivers, creeks and wetlands that are popular spots for salmon vessels if constructed.

The mine would produce copper, gold and other minerals. While there are other mines in the state, Carscallen said, Pebble mine would be several times the size of any other mine; the effects would be disastrous to Alaska’s salmon fisheries.

She said that while the federal Environmental Protection Agency and fishermen do not typically work well together, this is an issue on which both parties can agree.

While EPA officials have not made a motion to block any proposals or permits, draft assessments show a mining operation similar to Pebble would harm wild salmon. One report indicates as much as 87 miles of possible spawning ground for fish could be lost and 4,286 acres of wetland. Yet the Army Corps of Engineers is involved in permitting the project. To view the draft assessment done by the EPA, visit cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/bristolbay/recordisplay.cfm?deid=241743.

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