The RSDA, State Statute &
Our Position on Mining in Bristol Bay

There have been a number of questions arising from members about what, if anything, the BBRSDA can do to help in the fight against mining in the Bristol Bay watershed.  The BBRSDA is a unique organization, so unique in fact that there are only 2 organizations in the entire state that fall into the RSDA category – Bristol Bay and Copper River/Prince William Sound.  Because RSDAs are unique organizations there is a lot of speculation and misinformation about what an RSDA is legally able, or unable, to do.  Let’s start with what we are able to do:

RSDA’s & Alaska State Statute

The BBRSDA is a 501(c)6 organization – this means that we are a federally recognized, non-profit, member organization – every Bristol Bay drift permit holder is a member.  Our 501(c)6 status allows us the federal tax designation of a non-profit, and while there are certain stipulations on what we can and cannot do from a federal tax perspective, what members really need to understand is that the BBRSDA (or any RSDA for that matter) is allowed organization specifically because of state statute, and as such, is bound by those statutes and associated regulations.  State law is what outlines our purpose and charge and guides our mission, regardless of our individual or personal priorities. According to Alaska Statute Sec. 44.33.065. Regional seafood development associations, an RSDA:

 (1) is established for the following purposes:

(A) promotion of seafood and seafood by-products that are harvested in the region and processed for sale;

(B) promotion of improvements to the commercial fishing industry and infrastructure in the seafood development region;

(C) establishment of education, research, advertising, or sales promotion programs for seafood products harvested in the region; 

(D) preparation of market research and product development plans for the promotion of seafood and their by-products that are harvested in the region and processed for sale; 

(E) cooperation with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and other public or private boards, organizations, or agencies engaged in work or activities similar to the work of the organization, including entering into contracts for joint programs of consumer education, sales promotion, quality control, advertising, and research in the production, processing, or distribution of seafood harvested in the region;

(F) cooperation with commercial fishermen, fishermen's organizations, seafood processors, the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, the Fisheries Industrial Technology Center, state and federal agencies, and other relevant persons and entities to investigate market reception to new seafood product forms and to develop commodity standards and future markets for seafood products

While State statute clearly spells out the intent of an RSDA, as noted above, State regulations outline activities in which an RSDA is legally unable to engage:

The BBRSDA’s full policy statement is available here

RSDA’s Under State Regulation 

As each member knows, a 1% tax on your catch is collected by the State of Alaska to support your RSDA.  Each year the BBRSDA then receives an “assessment” from the State.  This assessment is the sum of your tax dollars, but because those funds are funneled through the State, there are limitations on what those monies can be used for.  As noted in Regional Seafood Development Association Regulations 3 AAC 149.080. Prohibitions on use of state financial assistance:

 State financial assistance under AS 44.33.065(d), and any passive investment income earned from that financial assistance, may not be used

(1) to the disadvantage of a seafood development region not represented by the qualified regional seafood development association;

(2) for price negotiations between fishers and seafood processors; or

(3) to pay expenses associated with lobbying a municipality or an agency of a municipality, or with lobbying the state or an agency of the state; for purposes of this paragraph,

(A) "lobby a municipality or an agency of a municipality" means to engage in an activity for the purpose of influencing municipal legislative or administrative action if the activity is substantially the same as activity that would have required registration under AS 24.45.121 if the activity was for the purpose of influencing state legislative or administrative action;

(B) "lobby the state or an agency of the state" means to engage in an activity for which registration is required under AS 24.45.121. 

While it is important that members understand the legal bounds of work we can pursue under our RSDA designation, as outlined by statue and regulation, it’s equally important that members also understand our position in relation to certain environmental issues:

Position on Mining

The intent of an RSDA as laid out by statute is in alignment with the BBRSDA mission: to enhance the value of the fishery for the benefit of its members.  We continue this effort daily with substantial resources devoted to creating a regional brand for our sockeye, funding projects and campaigns that work to increase the quality of the pack, and supporting management and science to ensure our fishery is executed without the need of value diminishing cost recoveries and that management decisions are informed by vital science-based research.  This is the work we are passionately devoted to as an RSDA and it is our charge.  To step outside the intent behind the legislation that allowed for the creation of RSDAs, and venture into the world of environmental advocacy, either ourselves or by financially supporting entities which do this type of work, would put in jeopardy the existence of this organization under state law.  That said, this organization reaffirms its position, as passed by resolution in 2008, that large scale mining development in the Bristol Bay watershed does not align with the Association’s core purpose; to raise the economic value of the fishery.  We must therefore oppose such development until it can be proven that the value of the fishery will not be diminished by the proposed development.

The BBRSDA’s full policy statement is available here.

We will continue our work to make Bristol Bay a household name through positive, consumer-facing marketing and fleet-wide quality improvements.  Creating a quality brand name for Bristol Bay is foundational on so many fronts and we believe this work to be critical for the benefit of our fishermen, the fishery and other regional stakeholders.  BBRSDA will continue to inform our membership about news and relevant topics related to our fishery through our website, social media and e-newsletter, Waypoints.