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News stories about salmon spills, invading humpbacks and the like, whether in the Pacific Northwest or just downstream from Nessie, sometimes stray, much like the tenacious fish themselves, into strange if not emotional waters. Thousands of pound Atlantic salmon being raised for commercial sale slipped their bounds and swam free into local waters, though the total remains unclear. Questions about disease, predation and the specter of interbreeding with native Pacific salmon were raised. Washington state fishery managers were urging people to catch as many of the Atlantics as possible.
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For their part, the owners of the salmon farm blamed the collapse of its pens about 4 p. Saturday Aug. Alaska journalist Craig Medred, ever in search of irony, pointed out here that Washington state tried mightily over decades to plant Atlantic salmon on purpose and failed every time. Far away, on the other side of the globe, the venerable BBC may have jumped its own banks in a push to cover what may become the debut of Scottish pinks. Alert Alaskans might scratch their heads over the linkage of pinks and brown bears, known especially for enthusiastic pursuit of sockeye and chum salmon.
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They also might find the tableau has an uncanny resemblance to the spectacle of grizzlies pursuing salmon at McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and Falls , said to be the largest annual gathering of brown bears in the world. The drama clearly unfolds at McNeil River falls. This film ends on the note that since there has not been a salmon season in northern California, except for the Klamath River—the first such closure in years.
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Hopefully it will move modern folks to take to the waters and learn the magic that can only come from wild places, wild fish and wild fishermen, and then band together to restore and save these wild places for generations to come. In the early s, the burning issue for Alaska was whether to sink oil wells in the North Slope tundra at Prudhoe Bay and build the pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. In the summer of I had the good fortune to travel the length of the then-proposed Alaskan pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, interviewing Alaskans all along the way.
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That trip hooked me. Alaska is now my official Valhalla.
Recently, whether to develop oil fields in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore has been the hot topic. I have not visited the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge yet, but my visit to the North Slope 40 years ago changed my misgivings about the pipeline, and made me begin to look more closely at environmentalists who flat out opposed the pipeline without ever having been there or watched how wildlife reacted to what was going on.
If you have never been up to Prudhoe Bay, the caribou prefer walking on roads built by the drillers, and in winter they cuddle up to the warm pipeline that keeps the oil flowing. Any proposal to alter the wild landscape of Alaska stirs the soul. The film opens with an announcement by former-Governor Sarah Palin about the opening of the salmon season.
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That sets the tone. There is no narration to this film. The people on both sides tell their story, and you decide. This is a beautifully shot film with an engaging soundtrack, and nice editing.
It is not a hard-sell film. People on both sides of the Pebble Mine project do have their say; well, both sides appear on camera and talk, but there is a definite pro-fishing bias. We get a chance to get to know some of the warm-hearted fishermen who call the Bristol Bay area their home.
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But these guys were nice people, who also like to fish and hunt. The Pebble Mine folks basically told me that they plan to build the most environmentally-conscious copper mine in the world, if they get their permits. And if they get their way, they will be pumping a lot of money into the Alaskan economy. If it goes through, this would be a huge hole in the Alaskan ground, with huge dams to be built on earthquake-prone territory, and the mountains of mining wastes would be tremendous.
It hits you in the gut if you like to fish and hunt, but you also need to make wise decisions and not get swayed by just emotion.