November 17, 2009

Casting Pebbles at Bristol Bay Salmon

"Seriously, Ms. Phillips, are you nuts?"

That was the question Cornichon asked in yesterday's post about the Bristol Bay salmon promotion in Seattle and former Alaska representative Gail Phillips's call for a boycott of the participating restaurants. The underlying issue: a proposed open pit mine on the headwaters of Bristol Bay that salmon-lovers fear would harm the fishery.

Up in Anchorage, Associated Press reporter Mary Pemberton filed a report that quoted this very blog, and, since it was kinda cute, didn't use profanity, and stayed on topic (salmon is at the core of most tourist-oriented Seattle restaurant menus), the story got picked up nationally (Washington Post, ABC News with subhead "Blogger strikes back," etc.)

This morning, Pemberton filed a longer story, with a response from Ms. Phillips, that made it into the New York Times. We quote from the update:

"Phillips recites an oft-heard complaint coming from the pro-Pebble contingent that questions how Pebble opponents can come out against a mine that has no final development plan and isn't permitted.

"Holden apparently has heard enough about Pebble to make up his mind.

'''A wealth of minerals lies beneath the tundra, and Pebble wants it,' he says on his blog. 'Trouble is, getting the riches would require a vast open-pit mine, the world's biggest, on the headwaters of Bristol Bay.'''

The AP report continues: Phillips said Monday that Holden has no clue what the mine is going to look like, nor does anybody else, until a final plan is developed.

''For a food blogger to already lay out the perimeters of the mine plan is foolish. It is not real because there is no plan yet,'' she said.

Meantime, Seth Caswell of Emmer & Rye and the Seattle Chefs Collaborative, responded directly to Ms. Phillips, which addresses the "unknown shape of the mine" issue. The gist of his message:

"Ms Phillips, do not think that because I am concerned for the responsible protection of the incredible oceanic resources of Bristol Bay that I do not see the value in building mines and extracting materials that can help better transform our lives in a myriad of ways. Hospital equipment, faster computers, and better communication technology not to mention the revenue to the state and improved infrastructure of Bristol Bay are just a few of the areas that can benefit from the addition of the natural resources that will be found in the proposed Pebble Mine. But just as you claim that I and fellow Seattle chefs are getting caught up in the wrong fight, I want to once again remind you that at this time, all we are asking is for our customers to please eat Alaskan salmon, especially those caught in Bristol Bay. The potential economic upsurge could have benefits that ultimately will sway the votes of the Alaskans who will decide in the coming years whether or not to permit the Pebble Mine. We are asking the restaurant diners of Seattle to cast their vote now, to vote with their forks. Please ask your friends and family to refrain from boycotting our restaurants. Who else is going to buy all of that great Alaskan fish?"

So here we have a dozen media-savvy Seattle chefs raising awareness of a (perceived) threat to Alaskan salmon, and a former state legislator in Alaska sending out emails urging a boycott of those restaurants, a wire service reporter in Anchorage who reads blogs...and a "foolish food blogger" in Seattle who refrains from using the F-word when trying to figure out what's going on: a dustup at two removes from whatever the Pebble Partnership might be plotting or planning.

Bring it on.

Posted by Ronald Holden at November 17, 2009 10:42 AM | TrackBack

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