EARTHWORKS

Supermarket, investment industries want Bristol Bay fisheries protected

Cordoba Times | Margaret Bauman

March 16, 2012
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National concern for protecting the Bristol Bay fisheries is growing, this time with the clout of supermarket and investment industry leaders speaking on behalf of millions of consumers and billions of dollars in assets.

Support from the Food Marketing Institute and Trillium Asset Management came to light March 12 in a news release from Earthworks, a nonprofit organization focused on protecting communities and the environment from the impact of irresponsible mineral and energy development.

Both entities spoke of the importance of the watershed assessment expected in April from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The assessment was initiated to determine whether the EPA should use its authority under Section 404© of the Clean Water Act to restrict disposal of mine waste into Bristol Bay waters. If the study shows that disposal of mine wastes would harm the salmon fishery, the EPA would have the power to take further protective action under 404©. The study was requested by the commercial fishing industry and the Bristol Bay Native Corp.

The Bristol Bay salmon fishery provides a strong economic base for Southwest Alaska, generating $318 million to $573 million in annual revenues and some 10,000 jobs.

The proposed Pebble Mine, a joint venture of London-based Anglo American pic, and the Vancouver, British Columbia-based mining firm Northern Dynasty, lies at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed and its salmon spawning streams.

The Pebble Limited Partnership maintains that development of the mine would be done in a manner that would allow for the co-existence of the mine and the fisheries, which are also critical to sport anglers, subsistence users and vast species of wildlife.

The Food Marketing Institute, which represents 26,000 retail food stores, and $680 billion in annual revenues, and Trillium Asset Management, with $170 billion in assets, as well as the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, stressed the economic and environmental importance of the EPA study.

“What this really does is underscore that this is an economic issue, a job issue, supporting an industry already profitable and having national impact,” said Bob Waldrop, director of the Bristol Bay RSDA, which represents some 2,000 Bristol Bay commercial fishermen. “We send 170 million pounds of salmon annually to various distributors, processors, retailers throughout the United States and beyond and that’s why these people care.

“They want this product. They want to continue to depend on this product. It creates jobs for permit holders, 6,000 crew and thousands of people downstream from them on the distribution chain. It’s about good food and good jobs,” he said.

Erik Lieberman, regulatory counsel for the Food Marketing Institute, sent a letter to the EPA noting the important role of Bristol Bay in sustainable salmon fisheries in the supply chains of a number of its wholesale and retail members.

Lieberman said that FMI hoped the EPA’s report would “reflect our own belief in the importance of continuing to preserve and responsibly manage this extraordinary natural resource.”

Lieberman said customers of the supermarket industry want wild Alaska salmon and that the industry wants to provide it to them.

“We are saying if you are going to allow this mine to proceed, you have to do everything you can to protect the salmon. We wanted to weigh in and let the EPA know this is a very significant decision. If there are insufficient precautions taken, that would interfere with our members’ ability to serve their customers,” he said.

“Investors representing $170 billion in assets have expressed similar support to the EPA and we are delighted to see an industry association as important as FMI speak up as well,” said Jonas Kron, vice president of Trillium Asset management.

“The investment community has a unique perspective to share,” said Kron, whose firm is the oldest and largest independent investment management firm in the nation solely devoted to sustainable and responsible investing.

“The EPA is a favorite punching bag for people in Washington D.C. and not in DC,” Kron said. “My experience with the EPA is they are devoted in principal civil servants who are trying to further the mission of the EPA. We think that expressing our opinions to companies and policy makers is a productive use of our position as shareholders.”

Tagged with: food marketing institute, food, bristol bay

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