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20 Years After Exxon Valdez: CA Fishermen Worry About West Coast Salmon

March 24, 2009

As the Obama administration considers opening a new stretch of Alaskan coastline to offshore oil drilling, environmentalists are commemorating the anniversary of one of the country's greatest ecological disasters. 20 years ago today, the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound. Recalling that event, California environmentalists and fisherman are hoping history doesn’t repeat itself.

Commercial fisherman Bob Bonano travels from Northern California to Bristol Bay every season. He says, even exploring for oil could cause a spill and he doesn’t think the risk justifies the rewards.

"It sounds like a lot of oil, but in reality it’s only two days' worth of our consumption nationally."

West Coast fisheries have seen a 90-percent drop in salmon populations since 2004. With California’s salmon season in danger once again, adds Bonano, Alaska really is the last stronghold for sustainable salmon harvest.

"Alaska has been really good in regulating the fishery up there; that’s why we have such large returns. Alaska basically is the last place right now that we can get the salmon."

Plans to develop oil and gas resources in Bristol Bay and elsewhere are under review by President Obama’s interior secretary, Ken Salazar, who promises a full review by the end of the year.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA