Rick Moonen: Pebble Mine Threatens the Future of Seafood

As a chef and restaurant owner, I have dedicated my life to serving delicious, high-quality foods—particularly seafood—to diners from around the world. Which is why, although it may be counterintuitive, these days I spend more of my time advocating for the future sustainability of our country’s seafood than I spend behind the stove. I have been entrenched in sustainable seafood issues since the 1990s, when the issue was barely on any diner’s radar, because I realized that our country’s fisheries and coastal ecosystems were vanishing.

Since then, my work to save seafood has taken me all over the world, including the remote waters of Bristol Bay, Alaska, where right now, our nation faces the biggest threat to our seafood supply: the proposed Pebble Mine.

The Pebble Mine, which has been a heavily debated project ever since Northern Dynasty Minerals first began exploration in the area in 2002, would be one of the world’s largest open-pit gold and copper mines—at the headwaters of the world’s most productive and valuable salmon rivers.

I have been privileged to visit Bristol Bay multiple times and tour its rural communities, meet its fishermen, learn how to smoke salmon from Native elders and catch a wild salmon at the end of my fly rod. The Bay produces over 40 percent of the world’s sockeye salmon. This summer, nearly 60 million sockeye returned—equivalent to more than a billion servings of nutritious protein. Bristol Bay is one of the purest, most sustainable sources of seafood left in the world.

rick moonen cleaning salmonI have also stood in the marshy tundra of Bristol Bay’s headwaters, where the Pebble Mine would change the landscape irrevocably. For more than a decade, the Pebble Mine has met fierce resistance from area residents, politicians from across the political spectrum, businesses, environmentalists, and seafood lovers.

In 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final scientific assessment declaring that Bristol Bay is “an area of unparalleled ecological value,” and a mine like Pebble would cause irreversible harm to the Bristol Bay watershed. Based on its findings, the EPA initiated a process that would halt its construction—or so we thought.

As a chef and sustainable fisheries advocate, I welcomed the EPA’s 2014 decision to protect this irreplaceable wild salmon fishery. But Bristol Bay’s protection was short-lived: When President Trump took office, his EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, signaled a willingness to let Pebble move forward, and has since made a backdoor settlement agreement with the Pebble Limited Partnership just after a brief meeting with the Partnership’s CEO Tom Collier.

Now, the EPA is just about to close its public comment period for the Pebble Mine, and fishermen, local residents, businesses, seafood lovers, and environmentalists alike are concerned that Pruitt’s defiance of due process leaves Bristol Bay and its salmon fishery vulnerable to irresponsible development.

At a time when Americans are being told to eat more fish and consume more sustainable forms of protein, we should be doing everything we can to protect the last remaining wild seafood we still have. That’s why I’ve joined the Businesses for Bristol Bay coalition to urge Pruitt and Trump to not reverse Clean Water Act protections in Bristol Bay.

Bristol Bay is a chance for our nation to put America first and protect our businesses, fishermen, and consumers. It’s also our chance to ensure that wild salmon remains a menu option for future generations.

Photos courtesy of Rick Moonen.


  • Taipei101

    1) Pebble is ~100 miles from Bristol Bay.
    2) There are no salmon streams within the proposed Pebble mine. It is a moonscape with <0.5% of Bristol Bay salmon streams within 400 sq miles.
    3) Pebble will:
    -Not use cyanide
    -have little contaminated waste rock
    -clean to code and discharge all water (redundancy to avoid water spill if asteroid hits dam)
    -store solid tailings that remain behind a wide/low dam that uses special lining and is 2x the strength needed to survive the worst possible Alaskan earthquake right at the site… even though there is no mega fault at the site.

    The reality is… the worst case scenario, a dam spill, is virtually impossible. And if it did occur, the impact would be minor (<1/5000 Bristol Salmon impacted by sediments… not chemicals.)

    The MSM and activist groups want you to remain ignorant of these facts so you'll oppose a well regulated Federal and State permitting process… that they know Pebble will clear by a mile…

  • Taipei101

    A well regulated redundantly safe Pebble mine will:
    -take market share back from high pollution China
    -employ ~2,000+ Alaskans with high paying full time jobs
    -provide ~$100 million royalty to the 5 tribes and locals
    -generate ~$100 million tax revenue to local counties
    -generate $1.3 billion tax revenue for Alaska
    -help the US achieve critical strategic mineral independence once more, protecting the US from the risk of China cutting supplies

    All that without threatening the Sockeye Salmon population like anti-American mining activists and the MSM would have you falsely believe.

    If these activist groups actually thought Pebble would not meet rigorous environmental standards, they would let Pebble start and fail in permitting. But they know better, so they deceive true environmentalists into supporting more ‘red tape’ to prevent N. American mining in favor of China.

    The MSM wants you to remain ignorant of the global pollution epidemic that has increase by multiples in China, etc. since 2008.

    Pebble will indirectly help save countless lives in China, etc., by reclaiming US market share, which will reduce the number of Chinese mines that are approved with little regulation and oversight.

    Say yes to Pebble following the lawful permitting process and succeeding on the merits of their world class design and practices.

    We simply must reverse the global pollution of our Oceans by the world’s worst polluters.

  • Taipei101

    Between Bristol Bay fishing seasons, many Alaska fishermen earn little to no income. Many locals have to rely on government assistance to meet the oppressive cost of living.

    Milk, eggs… everything costs multiples due to limited infrastuture.

    Pebble will greatly reduce transportation, food, and power costs by building local infrastructure and power supply… and bring high paying direct and indirect jobs. The local community will see a standard of living increase and renewed business activity.

    Pebble, who’s runoff does not impact 99.5% of Bristol Bay Salmon streams, will have a world class redundant & ‘fail safe’ design with world class regulation and monitoring.

    Despite the fact that Pebble will not impact the Bristol Salmon population… Pebble will provide fishing season insurance to Bristol fishermen. So fishermen will have a safety net to cover the cyclical low harvests.

  • Taipei101

    Chinese mines are built with few environmental controls, lax regulation, and little to no monitoring or reporting by the US MSM.

    Only ‘The Guardian’ and other British outlets actively report on the water/air disaster that is unfolding in China ever since the Obama EPA illegally colluded with 3 anti-American activist groups to illegally preempt the legal US mine permitting process.

    If you care about global mining pollution, please open your eyes and look at the source of nearly 100% of all global mining pollution… China, India, and other developing nations.

    Oppose Pebble, as the lying elites tell you, and you not only save ~zero Salmon, but you refuse jobs, royalties, taxes, infrastructure, lower cost of living, and a revitalization of the local communities.

    Per The Guardian, > 80% of Chinese rivers are toxic & lifeless. An estimated 750,000 Chinese die per year due to water/air pollution related illness.

    US media ignores this because their agenda is to kill every well regulated US mine for a variety of corrupt reasons.

    The EPA, US Army Corp of Engr. and numerous Alaska agencies already exist to regulate Alaska mining. Let them do their job.

  • bobbobbob

    The onyl thing threatennig the fish are fishermen killing 10 million each year

    • Bobby Tolberto aka TDA

      Hi, Denny. Are you drunk already?

      Don’t lie 🤥.

    • Bobby Tolberto aka TDA

      You need to work on your spelling and perhaps post before you start your daily drinking routine, Dennis Eugene.

  • John

    Please stop lying about this mine. It is getting ridiculous how little fact is being contained in these ridiculous commentary pieces.

    1. Pebble Mine is 100 MILES FROM BRISTOL BAY – FACT – DO FISH WALK?

    2. Only ONE stream (under the new mine plan) even drains into Bristol and affects < 0.05% of the water inflow – so that will destroy fish? really?

    3. NO CYANIDE will be used – does no cyanide mean your fish that walk on land will somehow be destroyed?

    4. You'd be better off arguing the cows you own that are grazing on that land that the mine is on won't have grass to graze with sir because if anyone uses actual facts pebble is more a threat to cows than fish

    This enviro propaganda, baseless commentary, devoid of FACT AND RATIONALITY is getting beyond tiresome

    Hey chef boyaredee, please, educate yourself, you are making yourself look a fool