What is International Year of the Salmon (IYS)? IYS is a global “initiative to inform and stimulate outreach and research that aspires to establish the conditions necessary to ensure the resilience of salmon and people throughout the Northern Hemisphere.” IYS seeks to bring people together, share and develop knowledge, raise awareness and take action. Salmon Beyond Borders (SBB) is hosting a series of IYS events throughout the region - and we look forward to connecting with you about your research and potential events in your community.
The intensive five-year initiative to address the scientific and social challenges salmon and people face in an uncertain environment will begin with efforts to partner across borders to find common ground for both research and solutions. We are keen to find solutions for the impacts of the growing mining industry on the Taku, Stikine and Unuk rivers --B.C. and Alaska’s shared salmon strongholds.
Read more below about the various gatherings in which SBB has participated or co-hosted around the region in celebration of the International Year of the Salmon!
Launch of International Year of the Salmon in Vancouver, B.C.
On October 11th, the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission hosted officials at Jack Poole Plaza in Vancouver, B.C., while Premier John Horgan announced the International Year of the Salmon funding and research plan for the next three years (five years total). Event attendees included media and over 100 leaders in salmon conservation from Canada, the United States, Russia, Japan, and Korea, Indigenous leaders, NGOs, academia, and industry from around the Pacific Rim.
Salmon Beyond Borders attended in an effort to build new relationships and partnerships with those who want to work together on IYS-related issues and events, to support the initiative and the government's interest in rebuilding salmon stocks, and to increase the awareness for the transboundary salmon rivers in Northwest B.C. and Southeast Alaska. SBB’s short video “Salmon Is” kicked off this great event in Vancouver.
The IYS effort reaches across borders to find common ground for both research and solutions — and one of the key threats in need of a solution is B.C. mining on the Taku, Stikine and Unuk rivers. Premier Horgan spoke of the need to “put aside those differences we may have, to put aside those things that divide us, to try to find those things that unite us — to not only preserve and increase our salmon populations but to ensure they will be there for generations to come.”
His words, along with those of Chief Bob Chamberlain’s --“ to put these spoken sentiments into real action” -- left us feeling very optimistic about the future of international salmon research efforts and the ability to move beyond borders to help these at-risk species and the way of life they provide.
International Year of the Salmon Launch Reception
for Fishing Leaders and Alaska Lawmakers in Juneau, Alaska
In January 2019, Salmon Beyond Borders hosted our Juneau Launch event for International Year of the Salmon at Amalga Distillery. United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA) board members, members of the Alaska Municipal League, Alaska state legislators, leaders in the fishing community, and Senator Lisa Murkowski came together to celebrate research, and international collaboration in the name of salmon.
Local businesses were showcased at the event; sustainable wild salmon from Taku River Reds was prepared by Chef Lionel Uddipa of SALT, and specialty cocktails from Amalga Distillery were served. Mayor David Landis of Ketchikan spoke as a representative of the Alaska Municipal League (AML) Board of Directors, Sue Doherty spoke on behalf of the UFA Board of Directors, and local business owners, Tyson Fick of Taku River Reds, and Brandon Howard of Amalga Distillery, spoke on the importance of sustaining wild salmon for Southeast Alaska communities.
Sue Doherty, Executive Director of Southeast Alaska Seiners Association and UFA board member, spoke on behalf of UFA, reading a statement from UFA ED Frances Leach. She said, “We are so excited to celebrate the International Year of the Salmon, especially here in Southeast, home of the Taku, Stikine, and Unuk-Nass Rivers, which serve as economic powerhouses to Alaska communities and the Pacific Northwest as a whole. We support research in these watersheds and we join with communities and lawmakers who call for binding financial assurances and enforceable protections to defend Alaska and our billion-dollar salmon fisheries from upstream development in Canada.”
Salmon Beyond Borders campaign director Jill Weitz highlighted the recent $1.8 million Interior Appropriations bill that was signed by President Trump two weeks ago, directing funds to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to work with state agencies and local tribes to conduct water quality monitoring on U.S.-B.C. transboundary rivers, “Research - not only has our delegation been really strong on this issue, Senator Murkowski has been, especially as it relates to advancing the needs for research in transboundary watersheds. The last few years, we’ve been working with her and her staff to get research dollars so that USGS can install stream gauges in U.S.-B.C.transboundary rivers. Just last week, the Interior Appropriations bill was signed by President Trump and that allocated $1.8 million dollars for USGS to work with state agencies and local tribes that are already doing water quality work. We are incredibly thankful for her staff, the Senator herself, and members of Congress who also supported this work.”
Senator Lisa Murkowski spoke to the successful appropriations bill and the importance of funding research and water monitoring on transboundary waters, in her address to the Alaska Legislature the following day, “We are making some headway on different levels. From the appropriations perspective, we were able to include additional money for more water monitoring gauges in the Unuk River area. That's an important part of what it is that we do. The ongoing discussions between Alaska and Canada have been important...we need to make sure that with the new administration here in Juneau, that they are continuing to work those efforts.”
Thank you to the team at Amalga Distillery who served their specialty cocktails, including their new whiskey, Taku River Reds for the wild local salmon, and SALT for preparing delicious salmon appetizers for everyone. It was a momentous evening with so many wild salmon supporters and decision makers in the room. Thank you to all who attended.
A Salmon Soiree in Victoria, B.C.
In early March, Salmon Beyond Borders, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, and WatershedWatch Salmon Society brought together a varied collection of salmon warriors to celebrate, collaborate, and inspire one another in light of the International Year of the Salmon. Salmon Beyond Borders is committed to co-hosting events like this one that highlight the important role salmon play on the coastline from B.C. stretching all the way up to Alaska, and ensuring that a diversity of committed individuals have a chance to get involved.
By partnering with our friends at SkeenaWild Conservation Trust and Watershed Watch Salmon Society, this event truly came together with a coastline perspective, representing the Skeena Watershed, Lower Mainland/Fraser Valley and Southeast Alaska. We gathered at the Fortune Gallery in Victoria’s Chinatown.
Minister Doug Donaldson (Forests Lands and Natural Resources), NDP Party, and MLA Adam Olsen (North Saanich and Gulf Islands) gave remarks at the beginning of the evening, as did IYS Director for the North Pacific Region, Mark Saunders. The keynote speaker of the evening, a Tahltan elder, provided some thoughtful insight and context for the transboundary rivers issue. Also in attendance was MLA Sonia Frusteau, Green Party (Cowichan Valley), and Minister George Chow (State for Trade), NDP Party (Vancouver-Fraserview) .
We appreciate the wonderful donations we received for this event: wild B.C. salmon provided by Trilogy Fish Co. in Tofino, B.C., prepared by Victoria’s own Songhess Catering. We also can’t forget to mention the locally-crafted gin by Sheringham Distillery as well as gin from Juneau, Alaska’s Amalga Distillery. We had a friendly competition, with no winner decided, because all ginwas so tasty!
The evening was filled with conversation and we trust new partnerships and exciting work will develop from it!
Wild Perspectives: A Celebration of the International Year of the Salmon
in St. Helena, California
In March, Salmon Beyond Borders co-hosted a special event in St. Helena, California with Odd Fellows Lodge #167 and Cameo Cinema: "Wild Perspectives: Celebrating the International Year of the Salmon." Over 150 artists, fishermen, decision makers, salmon consumers, activists, community leaders, and concerned citizens came together in gorgeous Saint Helena, CA, to learn more about, celebrate, and commit to protecting Alaska wild salmon.
Congressional Wild Salmon Caucus co-founder and Saint Helena native, Congressman Mike Thompson, gave remarks at the start of the event. We marveled at four incredible short films focused on the wild, rugged salmon watersheds of Bristol Bay and the Southeast Alaska/Northwest British Columbia transboundary region, were inspired by Amy Gulick's words and photos from her upcoming book, The Salmon Way: An Alaska State of Mind, and learned much from Alaska wild salmon fishermen and advocates. And, finally, we downed local wines and beers from Coho Wines, Terra Valentine Wines, and others, as well as devoured Patagonia Provisions wild salmon treats and delectable dishes prepared by Culinary Institute of America chefs with the highest quality Alaska wild salmon sourced from Gypsy Fish Company and Taku River Reds.
This event was a potent reminder that wild salmon are the ultimate connectors of us all along the western Pacific Ocean, from Alaska to California. We look forward to many more gatherings like this one in honor of 2019 as the International Year of the Salmon! When it comes to protecting Alaska wild salmon, we're all in this together!
I first came to Alaska for a visit with my family in 2011. During that fateful trip I caught my first wild Alaskan salmon on a stream outside of Cordova. and at that moment, I knew Alaska and it’s wild salmon had me hooked.
I grew up swimming, snorkeling, fishing and exploring the thousands of freshwater lakes in Northern Minnesota, sparking my love of fish and water at an early age. I moved to Juneau in 2015 to work as a naturalist and quickly decided to stay, transferring to the University of Alaska Southeast, where I studied fisheries, environmental science, and social sciences.
I first learned about the transboundary issue in a class at UAS, I've been a supporter ever since. It is an honor to have the opportunity to work to defend and sustain the shared salmon rivers of Alaska and British Columbia and the jobs and ways of life they support.
When I’m not at work I can be found hiking, fishing, or skiing, or in the garden with my dog Scordato.
Feel free to reach out to me anytime with questions, concerns, or if you are looking to be more involved with SBB at: email@example.com
Bev Sellars, former councillor and chief of the Xat'sull (Soda Creek) First Nation in Williams Lake and the former chair of First Nations Women Advocating for Responsible Mining, wrote a powerful piece about the truth of mining in B.C.
“After so many broken promises and ignored pleas we can hope that positive statements coming from the current B.C. government - and even from some quarters of the mining sector - mean that this time it will be different. But words minus action equals zero…B.C. needs to ensure that no mining activities are approved without the free, prior, and informed consent of affected Indigenous communities. If the industry and province want to build trust and start reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, they should agree to a reform of these mineral tenure laws to bring them into the 21st century.”
The mining industry puts lives at risk with shoddy maintenance of dams built to contain mining waste.
By The Editorial Board
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.
After the catastrophic rupture of a mine-tailings dam in Brazil last week, leaving behind at least 110 dead, 238 missing and an environmental disaster of epic proportions, the police were quick to arrest five people who had been responsible for inspecting the dam and who most recently proclaimed it “stable.” Certainly they had erred, and courts will decide whether they did so criminally. But rounding up the usual suspects does not begin to address responsibility for a disaster of this scale and a danger many mining communities face around the world.
Tailings are the wet waste from mining operations, often laced with toxic chemicals. At thousands of mines around the world, millions of tons of the muck accumulate behind dams. The most common type of dam — and the cheapest to build — is known as “upstream,” made by piling up thick sludge and raising the height of the dam as the pond grows. At the mine where the accident occurred in southeastern Brazil, owned by the giant mining company Vale, the dam was 28 stories high.
The danger posed by tailings dams is well known. Three years ago another upstream dam in the same Brazilian state, Minas Gerais, and co-owned by Vale and Australia’s BHP Group, collapsed, killing 19 people. The muck from that mine flowed 400 miles to the Atlantic Ocean. Other dams have collapsed in many countries around the world, and while the overall number of failures each year has been declining, the occurrence of major collapses has increased. According to the database World Mine Tailings Failures, there were 46 “serious” or “very serious” collapses — such as those in Brazil — between 1998 and 2017.
One reason is increased rainfall because of climate change, which can erode a dam wall years after the tailings pool is no longer in use. One study found that heavy rain was cited as a contributor to a quarter of global dam failures. Given that there are thousands of tailings dams around the world, and that mining companies generate ever more waste — they produced 8.5 billion metric tons in 2017, more than double the amount in 2000, according to an Australian researcher — the dams pose a danger that arresting a few workers won’t address.
The cost of failures is high, as Vale is learning. Shares in the company plunged 24 percent on the Monday after the Friday accident, and Vale is likely to face billions of dollars in penalties. That cost alone should propel Vale and the rest of the mining industry to take an immediate look at the way that they dispose of mining sludge and to inspect their dams. A joint report in November 2017 by the United Nations Environment Program and the Norwegian foundation GRID-Arendal found that in most failures, there had been ample advance warning signs. “The tragedy is that the warning signs were either ignored or not recognized by under-resourced management,” the report said.
After the 2015 accident in the state of Minas Gerais, state and federal investigators urged hiring more dam inspectors. But the federal government slashed budgets, in effect leaving Vale and other companies to do their own monitoring. It’s far from certain that the government will do better this time: Brazil’s new right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, has already hobbled environmental regulators, and his infrastructure minister has warned against the “demonization” of Vale.
Vale, by contrast, has been quick to pledge changes. Fabio Schvartsman, its chief executive, said Tuesday that the company had decided to stop operations at mines where another 10 upstream dams were still in use until all were fully decommissioned, a process likely to take one to three years. The dam that burst last week had been out of use for two and a half years, he said, and was in the process of being decommissioned.
The global mining industry should take heed. It is clear that the industry needs to take a close look at upstream dams, to establish strict international standards for the way they are built and inspected and to study alternative ways to dispose of their wastes.
SALMON BEYOND BORDERS is a campaign driven by sport and commercial fishermen, community leaders, tourism and recreation business owners and concerned citizens, in collaboration with Tribes and First Nations, united across the Alaska/British Columbia border to defend and sustain our transboundary rivers, jobs and way of life.
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