Fish Radio
Bristol Bay off limits to oil/gas
December 18, 2014  

Nation's 'Fish Basket' off limits to oil/gas drilling Credit: pewtrusts.com

Nation’s ‘Fish Basket’ off limits to oil/gas drilling
Credit: pewtrusts.com

 This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch. A big break for the nation’s fish basket. I’ll tell you more after this —

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Waters of the Eastern Bering Sea that include Bristol Bay are off limits to oil and gas development indefinitely. President Obama took to YouTube on Tuesday to make the unexpected announcement —

Hey everybody. Earlier today I took action to make sure that one of America’s greatest natural resources and a massive economic engine, not only for Alaska but for America, Bristol Bay is preserved for future generations.

Leases to drill for oil and gas have been on and off the table since the 70s. A temporary withdrawal was put in place by Obama four years ago; it was set to expire in 2017. Dubbed the ‘nation’s fish basket,’ the region covers nearly 35 million acres – home to the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery, halibut nurseries, all five species of salmon and much more.

It supplies America with 40% of its wild caught seafood. It’s a beautiful natural wonder and it is something that is too precious for us to be putting out to the highest bidder.

Lifelong fisherman and tribal leader Robin Samuelson’s family has been against the leases for decades.

Well, I had to watch the president’s video on the internet about five times. I’m elated. // Bristol Bay needs protection – we have a phenomenal world class salmon fishery here.

In fact, President Obama said the action honors anti-drilling activist Harvey Samuelson who passed away 10 years ago. Son Robin –

It’s a clear day here in Dillingham and I’m looking up at the sky and I can see him smiling.

The reaction was more muted by others. The Alaska Oil and Gas Association, which represents the state’s 14 companies, said the region was not on its radar screen anyway. In a statement it called the President’s action ‘confusing’ and said it “undermines the nation’s ability to achieve an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski doesn’t object to the decision. In a statement she added that what’s needed are “decisions to open lands and waters in Alaska, not the familiar and frustrating pattern of shutting everything down.”

Senator Mark Begich praised the President’s decision. No comment was made by Senator-elect Dan Sullivan.

Fisherman and Bristol Bay advocate Kathryn Carscallen called the oil and gas ban ‘significant’ but cautioned that, as in the past, it could be overturned by future presidents.

It’s going to hopefully be unacceptable for another president to turn those protections around and take them away and say that Bristol Bay isn’t worth protecting, So it definitely doesn’t take away ffrom today but it also means we’ll never be done working on it.

Thanks to the assist from APRN and KDLG.

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods. Ocean Beauty has contributed over 10 million meals to the U.S. Food Bank network, and is committed to ending hunger in America. www.oceanbeauty.com   In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.

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