New Report Takes Aim at Offshore Drilling in Bristol Bay

A new study produced by the Alaska Marine Conservation Council
calls for establishing permanent protection from offshore drilling for oil and gas
for Bristol Bay and the southeast Bering Sea. The document urges national policy
makers to recognize potential economic, cultural and ecological impacts of offshore
exploration in Bristol Bay and the southeast Bering Sea. Such impacts, says the
study, vastly outweigh the possible benefits.
These waters, the report says, support the most productive commercial
fisheries in Alaska and in the larger United States in terms of total pounds landed
and overall economic value. In fact, as the nation’s “fish basket,” the region accounts
for more than 40 percent of the total domestic fish catch by weight, the report
The harvests in these waters include salmon, an essential food
source for Native Alaskan subsistence users, as well as groundfish, Pacific halibut
and red king crab.
Many marine mammals as well as other wildlife are dependent on
these fisheries also for food.
Oil spills, drilling discharges and seismic surveys also stand
to have an adverse impact on the environment of Bristol Bay and the southeast Bering
Sea. The powerful sound waves of seismic surveys can disrupt vital activities such
as breeding, feeding and resting, and also reduce fish catch rates by more than
50 percent for several days as fish flee from areas where such surveys are in progress,
the study said.
The study, which was funded mainly by a grant from the World
Wildlife Fund, was conducted by AMCC with contributions from Thomas Van Pelt of
Transboundary Ecologic LLC, the Wild Salmon Center and Audubon Alaska.