Fish First

Take a minute to picture what 50 million salmon returning to spawn would look like, sound like, feel like. This is the experience of those living in Bristol Bay, Alaska, where salmon, people and culture have found a harmony with global implications. You see, Bristol Bay supplies nearly half of the world’s sockeye salmon and is generally accepted as the best-managed salmon fishery on earth. Back in June, four of us from the Come to Life collective traveled to Dillingham, a small town in Bristol Bay, to learn about and share the stories of those thriving off salmon.

Though rich in salmon and countless other ecosystem services, the rivers and headwaters of Bristol Bay are also rich in gold and copper and this has garnered international interest from mining and exploration companies. It goes without saying that developing a gold mine in the spawning grounds of the most sustainable wild salmon run on earth is a bad idea. And yet this is exactly what Northern Dynasty Minerals wants to do. The proposal is called Pebble Mine and- if built- it will be the largest gold and copper mine in North America; covering an area larger than the island of Manhattan

Fortunately, people and communities in Alaska have spent the last 10 years organizing around the protection of salmon and rivers, particularly around the Pebble Mine proposal. Much of this work has culminated into an exciting development: the “Yes for Salmon” Ballot Initiative. This is an initiative that has found its way onto the ballot of the upcoming general election in Alaska this November. If enough Alaskans vote in favour of the initiative, salmon laws in Alaska will be significantly strengthened; raising the standard of environmental protection, particularly around salmon habitat. Moreover, this initiative seeks to update environmental policies that have been in place for 60 years, bringing in a much needed wave of scientific foundation and accountability on the part of corporations and developers.

After compiling all of the footage and interviews, my good friend Alex Harris has just finished our film and it’s called Fish First. We are so stoked to share our film with the world, and even more excited to use it to drive attention towards the “Yes for Salmon” ballot initiative. We are launching the film free of charge online on October 15th on the Stand For Salmon website and are pushing two action items:

  1. If you live in Alaska, vote Yes for Salmon (YFS) in the November elections. If you have friends in Alaska, encourage them to get out and vote.
  2. If you live anywhere else, please donate to They are working tirelessly to spread the word about the YFS initiative and could use financial support to fund radio and print ads encouraging Alaskans to vote Yes.

I’m so honoured to have met all the amazing people the we did in Bristol Bay. It’s a place like no other and surely worth protecting. Thanks to the hard work of so many committed people, we have an opportunity to protect wild salmon in policy and law and I think that this is a campaign worth getting behind.

Lots of Love

Luke Wallace – Folk Musician and Salmon Admirer