An organization formed to advocate for the commercial fishing industry in Bristol Bay has sent a letter to President Obama asking him to ensure that the EPA quickly wraps up its work to finalize the "Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment".
In the past couple of year's commercial fishermen and other stakeholders in the fishing industry in Bristol Bay have come together under the banner of "Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay". That group recently sent a letter to President Obama supporting the efforts of the EPA to create a watershed assessment looking at the risks of large scale mining on the Nushagak and Kvichak River watersheds.
In the letter the organization says it's members and supporters views EPA action as the best way to properly protect Bristol Bay forever. However, the letter goes onto read that the group was disappointed by the EPA's recent announcement of a second peer review of the draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. The organization claims that an additional peer review and public comment period is both redundant and unnecessary. The organization is also questioning the timing of the peer review and the public comment period.
"Our work begins in late spring and continues virtually non-stop through the summer months. The timing of the second peer review could result in the public comment period occurring while the fishermen who would be most affected by the Pebble Mine are in the region earning their living."
The first public comment period on EPA's "Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment" generated over 220-thousand public comments and the vast majority of those comments were in support of the assessment and the process put together by the EPA. In the letter the "Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay" are urging the EPA to conclude its peer review and release the updated draft watershed assessment by March 19th.
The organization claims that will allow fishermen to comment before going fishing and will also allow the EPA to release the final version of the assessment in the early summer. Currently, the agency is not expected to have a final version of the assessment until late this year. "Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay" was created back in 2011 specifically to garner support from commercial fishing organizations across the country for the EPA's "Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment". Organizations that have signed onto the effort include the United Cook Inlet Drift Association, the Puget Sound Harvesters Association, United Catcher Boats, the Fishing Vessel Owners Association, Alaska Net and Supply and the Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association.