October 6, 2015

Recently there have been inaccurate assertions in the media and elsewhere that imply a 180-degree shift in Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association’s (BBRSDA’s) opposition to the proposed Pebble project, asserting that a change in our board of directors’ leadership now “signals [BBRSDA’s] support for Pebble mine.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The position of the BBRSDA and the near-unanimous views of its 1,650 members are unchanged. A resolution passed by the board of directors in 2014 stating that the BBRSDA opposes large-scale mining in Bristol Bay’s watersheds is, and continues to be, the position of this organization.

The election of Abe Williams as the new BBRSDA board president in mid-September had nothing at all to do with the Pebble Mine. Buck Gibbons resigned from his position and Abe Williams was selected in a 5-2 vote by board members to succeed him.

As most of our members understand, board members may and often do advocate their individual views in board meetings, but each member has only one vote, and the will of the majority dictates the organization’s policy and direction.

BBRSDA board elections in April 2015 resulted in the election of board members who campaigned on platforms asserting the desire to provide a more balanced portfolio in terms of the BBRSDA’s work and investments in projects. A majority of members voting in the election agreed with those platforms. This season’s exvessel value emphasizes how important BBRSDA’s investments in quality improvements and marketing support are, particularly given the expectation of another 50 million sockeye salmon run in 2016.

Sustainability of the fishery – whether the habitats upon which the salmon resource depend or the economic wellbeing of its members – remains a top priority of the BBRSDA. In fact, recently, the BBRSDA transferred its Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay (CFBB) project to Salmon State, a project in Alaska intended to work comprehensively to protect fisheries habitat statewide. The unanimous board vote to transfer CFBB to Salmon State was explicitly made to enable CFBB to more fully and effectively advocate protections on behalf of Bristol Bay’s commercial fishermen in ways that the BBRSDA simply can’t, given political and statutory constraints on its funding. So, quite to the contrary of those trying to paint BBRSDA’s recent election as implying a shift in BBRSDA’s direction, BBRSDA has taken actions – with the support of its new president – to ensure that another entity better able to carry the sustainability message will do so.

Now more than ever the fleet needs an effective and active BBRSDA, coming out of the 2015 season with huge inventory and a low price. BBRSDA’s newly expanded committees are actively meeting on your behalf to develop comprehensive quality and marketing strategies intended to address the current situation in the marketplace. These strategies are essential to improving the conditions in the fishery that affect every single member of the BBRSDA.

BBRSDA strongly encourages its members to stay accurately informed about the work of the organization by signing up for email updates (Bristol Bay Waypoints) on our home page, reading minutes and other materials posted here on our website, providing input to BBRSDA’s committees and board (board@bbrsda.com), and attending board meetings. In addition, please plan to attend the BBRSDA member meeting during Pacific Marine Expo (Thursday, November 19 from 8–10 a.m. at CenturyLink) to learn more about the work underway to assist and support the fleet.

The BBRSDA is only as strong as its informed and active membership. Our fishery faces challenges, but nothing insurmountable given our amazing salmon resource and the combined voice of fishermen working together to meet them head on.