Longtime commercial fisherman appeals to others to protect wild salmon
I first came to Bristol Bay in 1969 as a Vista volunteer in a program focused on building and strengthening communities in poor areas of the United States.
I quickly learned, as many volunteers do, that the community I came to support held incredible wealth—a pristine watershed, a burgeoning commercial fishing industry, thriving wild salmon runs, and indigenous people who have relied on and taken care of the water, land and fish for centuries.
I signed on for a year and never left.
Water nourishes fish, fish nourish people
I started commercial fishing a year later, a book-learned kid doing on-the-job training with the best teachers and mentors you could know. I knew I had found my home. Eventually, I built a house in Dillingham when I got tired of living on my boat.
I’ve called Dillingham home ever since, but I travel the Bristol Bay region often, and I keep a small place in Koliganek, where I work with the Koliganek Village Corporation.
I know my good fortune. I’ve worked in and traveled through one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I can tell you this: The Bristol Bay fishery is extremely healthy, as healthy as ever, because the people who live here know the importance of protecting what nature has given us.
I joined Trustees to protect all that’s great about Alaska
I served on the board of directors for Trustees for Alaska for 12 years to help protect Alaska’s salmon, water, land, wildlife and people. That’s why I’m asking my fellow Alaskans and others to join me by making a gift to Trustees now.
An anonymous donor who wants to keep Bristol Bay healthy will match donations up to $75,000 if we can reach that number by the end of the year. By giving now, we allow Trustees to provide free legal services to those who can’t otherwise afford it.
Trustees has helped safeguard wild salmon in Alaska more than once. Now’s the time to speak out for salmon!
Patches cover holes, but protections keep a place alive forever
When I first came to Koliganek, the locals noticed a hole in my pants and gave me a nickname, “Callmak.” It means “patches.” They still call me that.
Patches do good work, after all. A patch can cover a hole and protect your skin. When it comes to protecting your muscles, bones and body, though, you need to prevent the things that can do real damage. The same goes for Bristol Bay.
Protecting Bristol Bay communities means protecting their fish
To protect Bristol Bay’s unparalleled waters and wild salmon fisheries, we need to stop the Pebble mine.
Mine tailings will devastate salmon fisheries, no matter the mine size. Mining infrastructure will scar the region and lead to growing development. The Canadian mining company pushing for Pebble will push and push to extract every dime of profit, regardless of what the people in the region want or say, or how the mine destroys communities and waterways.
Pebble tells its “insiders” that the deposit of copper is huge and the mine can operate for decades, even a century.
What Pebble wants will destroy what Bristol Bay has worked so hard to preserve—a way of life, salmon that feeds the people of Bristol Bay, and a fishing industry that provides wild sockeye salmon to people around the world.
Let’s keep the watershed pristine, water clean, fish healthy
I’ve been fishing in Bristol Bay for 40 years. Last summer we celebrated one of the largest wild sockeye runs on record with over 59 million fish, including a record run of over 19 million fish in the Nushagak district. The summer before, a Bristol Bay fisherman caught the 2-billionth fish since the commercial fishery began 133 years ago.
If we want healthy salmon runs in another hundred years from now, and hundreds of years after that, we need keep the watershed pristine, the water clean, and the fish healthy. That means saying “no” to the Pebble mine.
Jerry “Callmak” Liboff served on the board of directors for Trustees for Alaska from 2005 to 2017. You can find him every summer out on his boat in the place he loves.