Protect salmon streams

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, August 27, 2004

When I was a kid I loved playing games in which you connected the dots. Now that I'm older, the game has become a useful metaphor in examining issues that arise. For instance, an article in the Empire (Wednesday, Aug. 25) was titled the following, "EPA issues widespread polluted fish warnings," and went on to describe that one in three, (a total of 1/3) of all lakes in the lower U.S. and a quarter of the nation's rivers contain enough pollution that eating fish from those lakes should be limited because of toxicity.

The very next day the front page headline of the Empire (Aug. 26), in contrast to this, began, "State eyes easing pollution rule." The article went on to describe a new state proposal to allow "elevated amount(s) of wastewater pollution to enter fish spawning areas." In such a situation, how long will it take Alaskan salmon to become tainted? How long would it then take for the EPA to warn consumers that Alaskan wild salmon may have elevated levels of toxicity? What with increasing mercury levels in canned tuna, enough for the EPA to warn pregnant mothers to limit consumption, you'd think state officials would be able to "connect the dots." Polluted spawning streams lead to tainted fish.

Fouled fish in the Lower 48, on the contrary, could represent a tremendous opportunity for marketing pristine wild Alaskan salmon. Think about the advertising potential; "Fresh, Wild Alaskan Salmon as Pure as Alaskan Water." How many people in the Lower 48 buy "pure" water rather than drink water out of their own tap? Purity is so important that they will pay more for pure water than they do for gasoline. How many would buy "pure" Alaska salmon rather than local fish with a questionable pedigree? In an age when the population is becoming increasingly concerned about the quality of their food it seems to me that easing regulations is exactly the wrong direction for Alaska to go.

I urge state officials to "connect the dots." Wastewater mixing zones, whether discharged from sewage treatment plants, seafood processors, as a result of mining, or other industries, has no place in Alaskan spawning streams.

Steve Wolf


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