Located in southwest Alaska, Bristol Bay is home to the world’s greatest concentration of seabirds, dozens of important bird areas, the world’s largest salmon runs, and was threatened by one of the world’s largest open pit mine proposals.
Birds and salmon rely on the rich resources of Bristol Bay. Located in southwest Alaska, a network of braided rivers feeds the rich, marine waters of the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery. These salmon bring bird life to the region. Bristol Bay is the crossroads for birds across the world’s migratory flyways. Nowhere else on Earth is so important for so many birds from so many continents. It is home to 27 globally significant Important Bird Areas and one of the world’s largest concentrations of seabird colonies. Short-tailed Shearwaters and Black-legged Kittiwakes share waters with dozens of species of marine mammals, including the world’s endangered Pacific right whale.
The world eats salmon from Bristol Bay, not gold. Over 40% of the salmon consumed in the U.S. comes from Bristol Bay. Fishing drives Bristol Bay’s economic engine for Alaska with a $1.5 billion fishing economy and over 14,000 jobs. Birds, fish, and other wildlife also drive Alaska’s growing tourism economy. Bristol Bay is home to one of the most robust tourism economies in Alaska and it relies on the intact ecosystems and rich wildlife diversity that brings thousands of visitors to the region each year.
The fate of Bristol Bay, our richest salmon fishery and most important bird sanctuary, was in our hands. The proposed Pebble Mine would have been one of the world’s largest open-pit gold mines. The project proposed to dig a 1-mile wide, 1-mile long, and 200-meter deep mining pit in the heart of spawning salmon and breeding bird habitat. The proposed mine could have destroyed 3,500 acres of wetlands, lakes, and ponds, and over 80 miles of salmon streams. Road corridors would have sliced through grizzly bear habitat between two national parks. Audubon Alaska fought for over a decade to help protect the rich resources of Bristol Bay from the threat of this huge mine along with conservation partners, Alaska Native communities, the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, commercial and sport fishermen, subsistence hunters, and concerned citizens.