Alaskan landscape of Bristol Bay and mountains.
Bristol Bay An aerial view of a stream flowing into Bristol Bay © 2007 Clark James Mishler

Stories in Alaska

Explore Alaska’s Amazing Bristol Bay

Wild salmon are the heart of a way of life.

Bristol Bay and Wild Salmon at Risk

Everything runs on wild salmon in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Nature runs on salmon. Communities. Business and industry. A way of life. Salmon is the basis of millennia-old Indigenous traditions. The lands and waters of Bristol Bay produce more wild salmon than anywhere else on Earth, which fuels a sustainable commercial salmon fishery valued at $2.2 billion annually.

Yet this vital, globally important salmon run is in danger; and we may be facing our last, best chance to save Bristol Bay. The proposed Pebble mine, while facing setbacks, remains a threat. The mine would straddle the pristine headwaters of the Nushagak River and Kvichak River, spawning grounds for 50% of Bristol Bay’s salmon. Pebble mine would be one of the largest open-pit mines in the world, extracting billions of tons of copper, gold, and molybdenum ore to the irreparable harm of the surrounding landscape.

The Nature Conservancy joins with our partners in Bristol Bay communities in their work to protect a way of life and a healthy environment, build a sustainable local economy and nurture traditions that date back millennia.

A fishing boat in Bristol Bay at sunset.
Wild Sockeye A crew fishes from a setnet skiff in Bristol Bay near a beach at Naknek, Alaska, in the low light of the northern night. © Brian Adams

Five Things to Know About Bristol Bay

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Between the mountains and the sea, Bristol Bay, Alaska, has always ranked as a place of remarkable natural abundance. Its wild salmon number in the tens of millions, more than anywhere else on Earth. It’s a natural wonder, and more: Wild salmon is a source of life for people and nature.

1. Rivers and Streams, Lakes and More Lakes

Six major rivers and thousands of miles of tributary streams flow into Bristol Bay’s rich marine waters. These pristine rivers flow from the farthest reaches of a vast Ohio-sized region of tundra, forests, mountains, glaciers and giant lakes.

2. People on the Land

For the 7,000 people who live here, travel throughout the Bristol Bay region is mostly by boat and by air and, in winter, by snow machine. No roads connect its far-flung villages to the rest of Alaska. 

3. Place of Indigenous Stewardship

Bristol Bay is a Native place with living traditions dating back thousands of years. The people of the region’s 31 federally recognized tribes represent three of Alaska’s distinct Indigenous cultures: Central Yup’ikAlutiiq (Sugpiaq), and Dena’ina Athabascan.

4. Commercial Salmon Fishing

The commercial Bristol Bay salmon fishery has been certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. The industry is valued at $2.2 billion annually, supports a fishing fleet of 2,000 vessels and employs 12,000 people every summer.

Learn Salty Fishing Slang from Bristol Bay
Fishing boat in harbor
commercial salmon setnet skiff
Commercial fishing vessels
Commercial fishing fleet with larger transport boats.
People pulling nets on a commercial salmon setnet skiff

Speak Up for Nature

At our Online Action Center, tell the EPA to enact Clean Water Act & protect Bristol Bay!

Take Action

5. Wildlife & A Way of Life Under Threat

Bristol Bay is a vast and wild region of Alaska, known for brown bears, beluga whales and so much more—but the proposed Pebble mine jeopardizes its future. You can help by telling the EPA to protect Bristol Bay. Do it via our Action Alert.

View from the back of a boat holding green nets and white buoys under a cloudy pink and purple sky.
Commercial Salmon Fishing A commercial salmon fishing vessel, known as a drift boat, at work in Bristol Bay. © Bob Waldrop

Five Ways to Help Bristol Bay

Your efforts can make a difference in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. In our connected world, even from afar, we can achieve so much when we pitch in and work toward a common goal!

  • Commercial salmon fishermen pulling in nets

    Get Involved!

    Tell the EPA to use its Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay via our Online Action Center! Take Action

  • Fresh fillet of wild sockeye salmon

    Ask for Wild Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon at Your Seafood Counter!

    A vibrant commercial fishery builds strong and bold voices for protecting salmon streams. Our friends at Bristol Bay Sockeye will help you find wild salmon for your next dinner! Find Your Fish!

  • Aerial view of Bristol Bay

    Donate Now!

    Your donation supports a comprehensive effort to stop Pebble mine, protect fish and wildlife, support Indigenous authority in local decision-making, and build robust and sustainable local economies. Donate

  • Fishing captain holds a freshly caught wild salmon

    Tell Your Friends About Bristol Bay!

    Get them to join you in speaking out against the proposed Pebble mine. Easiest way: share this new article, "Last Run," from Nature Conservancy magazine. Read and Share

  • A commercial salmon fishing vessel at work

    See It to Believe It!

    Share this incredible Bristol Bay slideshow from Alaska photographer Brian Adams. View the Slideshow

  • One more way to help: Share this list!

    Share this list on Twitter to spread the word about how everyone can help Bristol Bay. Share Now!