Alaska Independent Fishermen’s
P.O. Box 60131
Seattle, WA 98160
Phone/Fax (206) 542-3930
November 24, 2006
Renee Orr, 5-Year Program Manager
Minerals Management Service
381 Elden St., MS 4010
Herndon, VA 20170
Dear Ms. Orr,
Re: Bristol Bay‘s largest salmon fishermen’s association opposes proposed 5-year Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Leasing Program
I am the President of the Alaska Independent Fishermen’s Marketing Association (AIFMA). AIFMA is the largest salmon fishermen’s association in Bristol Bay, Alaska. AIFMA’s mission is to protect the renewable salmon resource and promote economic sustainability for commercial salmon fishermen in Bristol Bay. Bristol Bay has the largest sockeye salmon run in the world and last year the value of the fishery to fishermen was about $100 million.
AIFMA members are opposed to offshore oil and gas drilling in the North Aleutian Basin off of Alaska. Of particular concern is drilling in areas closest to the Bristol Bay salmon fishery. Generally, these waters are amongst the most hazardous waters in the world. The area experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activities. The area also experiences severe sea-ice conditions and, at times, hurricane-force winds.
In 2005 thirteen oil platforms were lost in the Gulf of Mexico due to Hurricane Katrina. The loss of these platforms resulted in an unknown amount of oil that was released into the environment. Most certainly the extreme conditions in the Bering Sea present the potential of a similar disaster. We learned from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska that the ecological damage done by oil spills can last forever. We also note that the recent on-land, massive oil spill from a leak in a North Slope pipeline is just another example of the inevitable contamination from crude oil and petroleum releases in the eco-system due to oil and gas development.
The draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed 5-year leasing program fails to adequately consider the scale, economic importance, and potential impacts of OCS activities to the Bering Sea fisheries, and in fact does not even mention commercial fisheries in the region.
We must save our world-class and premier fisheries located in the Bering Sea and Bristol Bay from the inevitable negative impacts of oil and gas development. With zero benefit and potential substantial to devastating impacts to our fishing industry, we strongly urge that there be no off-shore leasing in Bristol Bay.