My Turn: Pebble isn't the only opportunity for Bristol Bay region

I recently read Abe Williams’ My Turn: “Why rush to judge the Pebble Mine?” in the Empire. As an opponent of the Pebble Project and someone who grew up fishing alongside the author it struck a chord in me.

I’m a Bristol Bay Native as well, one that lives out here where 80 percent of our residents oppose Pebble. This year will be my 30th season commercial fishing. I’ve done good for myself and for my family through fishing, much like our generations past. From 1997-1999 Abe and I fished together. I had the permit and he had the boat, F/V”Lost Boys”. We had a lot of fun together. In 2000 I bought my own drift boat.

Yes, sometimes it’s tough out here to subsist but there is also a lot of freedom. I, like many, have a lot of pride making things work out here. Fishing provides for me and my family, so does hunting and even gardening helps. I manage to stay employed when there is work and when it drys up, I do artwork. Always busy and trying to be resourceful and productive. I see many proud people providing for their families like I do. Abe makes it sound like real people can’t make it out here, I don’t see it that way. And Pebble is not our only opportunity.

If there was as much effort going into “THE BAY” as there is going into fighting for or against Pebble, we would be solving many of our challenges and developing our fishery. The Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation’s permit loan program makes it possible for all watershed residents to participate in the commercial fishery. If you have a will, you have a way to get into the fisheries.

I think we should be working on the many other resource development opportunities in our region that don’t threaten to harm our fisheries.

Thankfully the EPA has responded to our request for help and I am sure will ultimately abide their mandate to uphold the Clean Water Act and protect Bristol Bay

To me, fish economics are good economics. Sustainable, renewable and time tested. Over a billion dollars derived from it annually. Pebble’s jobs, grants and short-term gain won’t persuade us not to judge what we already know is a bad idea.

• Everett Thompson lives in Naknek year round with his wife and two kids, he is a shareholder to four of the native corporations in the region and a tribal member of Naknek Native Village. The majority of his income comes from commercial fishing in Bristol Bay.

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