National Geographic : 2010 Dec
• salmon above all else. ey fear that the Pebble mine would destroy the shery, largely by con- taminating the water. e Pebble partners argue that extractive industry and wildlife can coexist and that the mine would bring much needed economic bene ts. Framing this as "mine ver- sus salmon," however, overlooks the project's larger potential e ect: It could stimulate indus- trial growth on a scale that would permanently transform the Bristol Bay region. , and even more astonishing for being routine, the summer sockeye run has started. Monitors at Port Moller, out on the Alaska Peninsula, have sent word that the initial numbers are in keeping with those of past seasons---and increasing steadily. From Naknek, south of the Kvichak River, to Dillingham, at the mouth of the Nushagak, all of coastal Bristol Bay is high on anticipation. Among the rst to get their nets wet are the subsistence shers who live on and near the bay. For thousands of years the indigenous Yupik have depended on salmon, along with pike, white sh, beavers, caribou, moose, berries, and plants such as wild rhubarb. "We share with the whole village," says Luki Akelkok, Sr., a 72-year- old Yupik patriarch. Yes, adds Bobby Andrew, who's in his late 60s, "we give away our rst big game. It always comes back." Akelkok and Andrew are escorting me by jet boat to Lewis Point, a long gravel beach that salmon swim past on their way upstream. Close enough to the bay to lie within the tidal zone, the river here is broad, muddy, and in places dangerously shallow, so Akelkok approaches gingerly. Every summer people from nearby vil- lages gather at this spot to sh for sockeye and, more important, for kings, the largest of the salmon and the rst to return to Bristol Bay, in early June. e men anchor one end of a setnet Edwin Dobb has written about mining in his home- town of Butte, Montana. Michael Melford's Hidden Alaska, Bristol Bay and Beyond will be published next spring by National Geographic Books.