Nushagak Bay lights up with last-ditch Pebble protest

Jul 1, 2019

In a display of unity against the development of the proposed Pebble Mine, protesters sent flares into the sky above Clark's Point. 


The sun sets behind a fishing vessel off the shore of Clark's Point, where fishermen and other demonstrators used emergency flares to protest the proposed Pebble Mine.
Credit Alex Hager / KDLG

Emergency flares flickered over Nushagak Bay, streaking the sky with trails of white smoke. The flares were not coming from boats, though. Fishermen and Clark's Point residents were sending up a distress signal for the bay itself.


Juliana John was one of them. Standing on the dock of the now-shuttered cannery in Clark's Point, she shot a flare up into the golden sunset as a message of opposition to the proposed Pebble Mine. The idea was to send a "distress signal" for an area that many feel may be threatened by the development.

"If a mining company were to come in and destroy what we have going on here with the fisheries," John said. "We'll be suffering. We're suffering already in kind of a way. There's a lot of stress going on. So we are distressed."


The protest on Nushagak Bay came just 72 hours before the closure of the public comment period on Pebble Mine's draft enviornmental impact statement, which ends at midnight on July 1. Participants hoped the flares would display of unity against the development.

"I think just unifying everybody and showing a big message," John said. "Especially with the flares is going to be and really big, stay out, stay away type of message."


While their plea to keep mines out of Bristol Bay is fairly straightforward, their reasoning has deep roots.


"We need to keep doing this," John said. "We need to keep living our life. We need to keep supporting our families, our income, our everything. Fishing is everything."


That sentiment spans generations. John’s mother, Emilia Rooker, joined her on the dock. She expressed fears that mining could put a wrinkle in a line of fishermen that goes back decades.


"I take great pride in having my children here with me," Rooker said. "They are the fifth generation to carry on our traditions and through subsistence and our way of life. And if Pebble Mine were to come to fruition, their children's children would be in jeopardy of not being able to do what we've done for generations."

A young protester holds an anti-Pebble sign in Clark's Point. Many of Pebble's opponents have highlighted the potential impact of the development on future generations.
Credit Alex Hager / KDLG

Opinions on Pebble Mine vary across the region, but Rooker says she’s seen people and communities around Bristol Bay speak out for years against the project. And she feels that the message sent by Pebble’s opposition doesn’t seem to be getting through.


"It's such a shame that the elders have spoken all the way to the youngest generation and it's still falling on deaf ears," Rooker said. "What does our word mean if they cannot follow through and listen to what we have to say?"