Amidst the ongoing political wrestling match over construction of a massive mine at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, there was music in early August, lots of it, as more than 5,000 people flocked to Salmonstock, on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.
The third annual Salmonstock, billed as three days of fish, fun and music, included the music of more than 50 bands on four stages, booths celebrating salmon in arts, crafts and clothing, and opportunities to learn more about the importance of protecting habitat for salmon streams in Alaska.
Salmonstock is organized by the Renewable Resources Foundation, which is very upfront on its website (www.salmonstock.com) about its cause: stopping development of the Pebble mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, home of the world’s largest sockeye salmon run. Along with the music, Salmonstock celebrates the fish and the people who depend upon them.
It is also, says the foundation, “about the power we have in protecting our resources and our livehihoods. More than just three days of celebrating what we have, it is an event that offers every attendee the tools needed to help preserve it.” Salmonstock participants are invited to show their passion about the fish and to do what they can to “ensure another millennia of great fishing.”
Since Salmonstock began three years ago, the event has taken hold, and this year presale of tickets was up 1,000 percent, said Anders Gustafson, executive director of the Renewable Resources Coalition and Foundation. Most of the more than four-dozen music groups playing this year took a big cut in pay, which allowed for more music, he said.
“The idea is a fund raiser to sustain an ongoing campaign” against mining ventures that would have adverse affects on the fisheries, he said. While income from Salmonstock hasn’t reached this goal yet, “we have to remember there are a lot of intangibles too,” said Gustafson. Those intangibles include attracting more and more people each year, and educating them about the importance of salmon habitat. The event itself is a year-round effort that involves more than 200 volunteers for three days of festivities.
Along with a booth for the Renewable Resources Foundation, there are booths for Trout Unlimited and other environmental entities, all offering information on the importance of salmon habitat and how development of specific mining ventures introduces the potential of adverse affects on salmon habitat.
Among the artists with booths at Salmonstock 2013 was Apayo, a Yupik Eskimo artist from Dillingham with a passion for protecting Bristol Bay habitat.
“I am very hard headed and will always prioritize subsistence, traditional values and self sufficiency over the corporate ideals for development and over processed food,” Apayo writes on her website, www.apayoart.com.
“Because of this I have become a huge advocate for protecting Bristol Bay, my lifestyle, and culture from large scale development, particularly the Pebble Mine project, which would potentially be the largest open pit gold and copper mine in the world. Though they post that as a split decision for local people, over 80 percent of Bristol Bay residents oppose this operation and believe that it would put an end to our world renowned commercial and sport fishery.”