The Pebble Mine project is a source of controversy in Dillingham because of the potential damage it could cause to th fish stocks. While most opposition to the mine is quite direct, a fisherman’s association hopes to convey their message through photography. KDLG’s Chase Cavanaugh has more.
Fishing is considered to be the lifeblood of Bristol Bay, with thousands of vessels coming to the region for yearly salmon runs. Commercial Fishermen of Bristol Bay is an organization representing these groups, and has lobbied strongly against the Pebble Mine Project. Their most recent project is “Faces of the Fleet,” a photo contest where fishermen send in pictures of life during the fishing season. Scott Coughlin, a consultant with the group, says it is a unique way to show their investment in the bay.
“As you know, just because the EPA decided to implement 404c, doesn’t necessarily mean that Pebble Mine is going away. We have to keep up the drumbeat. We have to let policymakers know that commercial fishermen are engaged and feel strongly enough about this to communicate their concerns to these policymakers. One of the ways we want to do that is by putting the Faces of the Fleet images from the fishing season onto social media, onto Facebook and Twitter and other venues on behalf of the commercial fisherman of Bristol Bay and to keep up that drumbeat of support to protect the bay.”
Coughlin views social media as key to getting the word out, as trends and judicious tagging can help the images become more prominent.
"Most elected officials, for instance, don't spend a lot of time on social media themselves, but their aides do, their staff do. By categorizing, flagging, or tagging those in certain ways, we can dramatically increase the likelihood that they actually get seen. On Twitter, for instance, you can make sure that our photos will show up on their twitter feed on their desk when they get to work by tagging them a certain way."
While the environmental connections may not be obvious, Coughlin says it’s about putting faces on those invested in Bristol Bay, and by extension, who stands to lose if Pebble Mine damages the watershed.
"Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay is and always has been about protecting the fishing jobs that 1800 or so small businesses that employ many thousands more, and sustain the Bristol Bay salmon economy, and by extension support the entire economy of Alaska and the United States. Emphasizing and bringing home the message to policymakers and decision makers that there are real people doing this work, they have real jobs, and they would be severely impacted if the watershed of the Bristol Bay were damaged by large-scale mining."
Along with this environmental message, the contest also serves as a source of PR. As demonstrated by the success of shows like “Deadliest Catch,” Coughlin says there is a burgeoning interest in the careers of Alaska fishermen.
"Folks who are not in the fishing business joust find this a really intriguing and interesting industry. It could just be getting ready for the season, it could be doing boat projects, it could be working o the gear, it can be actual action photos from the fishing season itself. Show 'em great pictures of the product, let's show 'em great fishing on the line. All of these things are going to be interesting to the general public and the policymakers and decision makers."
The contest is accepting photos taken during the June and July fishing season. These pictures can be submitted in three ways. Either by texting 360-852-7690, e-mailing email@example.com, or through online submission at fishermenforbristolbay.org/photo-contest. Prizes for the top photographs include a GoPro Hero3+ Camera as well as Gage duffel and backpacks and several raffle prizes. Full rules and information on submission can be found at fishermenforbristolbay.org.