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Food industry asks EPA to protect Bristol Bay seafood source

Posted: March 13, 2012 - 12:01am

The agency representing 75 percent of U.S. retail food store sales has sided with the Environmental Protection Agency in its ongoing assessment of Bristol Bay waters.

Erik Lieberman, regulatory counsel for the Food Marketing Institute wrote a letter to EPA’s Region 10 administrator encouraging the agency to complete its 404(c) report, scheduled to be released in April.

The letter was dated March 1 and can be found at bit.ly/OBB-FMI-letter). Earthworks released the letter in a press release Monday.

The letter was addressed to Dennis McLerran, administrator for EPA’s Region 10 and signed by Lieberman.

“I am writing to express our support for the EPA’s scientific assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed,” Lieberman wrote, “and the impact large-scale development could have on this unique ecosystem.”

Bristol Bay is a world-class fishery and an important piece of the supply chains of FMI’s members. Lieberman said the Institute hopes the EPA’s report will “reflect our own belief in the importance of continuing to preserve and responsibly manage this extraordinary natural resource.”

The Food Marketing Institute represents 26,000 retail food stores.

The EPA’s watershed assessment is part of its powers under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act. The section deals with the disposal of mine waste into water bodies.

The Bristol Bay region has large deposits of low-grade sulfide-bearing ore. The proposed Pebble Mine is such a sulfide mine. Pebble is owned by the Pebble Limited Partnership. The Partnership has come out against EPA’s 404(c) intervention.

The U.S. Department of Fish and Game forecasts 21 million sockeye salmon will be harvested from Bristol Bay in 2012.

Lieberman said FMI is working to support sustainable fisheries world-wide. This endeavor relies on fisheries being “maintained and protected.”

“As an industry, we do not believe that sustainability and economic development are mutually exclusive,” Lieberman wrote. “To the contrary, when approached correctly both goals can actually help promote responsible management. Bristol Bay is a one-of-a-kind fishery that is important not only to the ecology of the region but also to fulfilling the goal of long-term sustainable seafood sourcing.”

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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