05/21/2013 03:59 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Salmon or Gold?

Fisherman Christopher Nicolson is gearing up for salmon season. Each summer he makes the long trek to Alaska with his family, from Brooklyn to Bristol Bay, to fish for sockeye salmon from the same camp his grandfather homesteaded in the 1940s. Nicolson's fishing roots go way back. His mother, a native Alaskan, can trace her family's history fishing around the Kenai Peninsula back hundreds of years. "We grew up fishing with my parents, that's just what my family did," says Nicolson. Like the forty million salmon returning each year to the Bristol Bay watershed, Nicolson, along with his parents, cousins, children, and thousands of other fishermen and natives, take part in a cycle that has endured for millennia.

The story of the Nicolson family is one we like to tell often, because it illustrates perfectly the connection between traditional fishing communities, well-managed wild fisheries, and good fish. But it's a story we might not be able to tell for long. Bristol Bay, the largest and most sustainable source of wild salmon in the world, provider of tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of income for people around the country, is in jeopardy. The specter that looms is the proposed Pebble Mine project, the construction of the world's largest open pit mine directly in the headwaters of Bristol Bay. According to the EPA's most recent assessment, the mine would destroy salmon habitat, spread toxic waste into the ecosystem, and change the face of Bristol Bay as we know it.

The situation in Bristol Bay is not just a remote concern affecting a small group of people in a distant place. It affects anyone who cares about the future of our food supply, because Bristol Bay is one of our last sources of truly wild salmon. What can we do to help? The EPA is accepting public comments on their latest draft assessment until May 31. But the best thing we can do to protect Bristol Bay salmon is to eat it, and demonstrate with our choices that we value pure, natural food and healthy communities more than gold. Our friend chef Evan Mallet put it best, "Whether we like it or not, food is politics. What we eat reflects our values." We have a rare opportunity to prevent human greed and destruction before it happens. Take a moment now to tell the EPA that you want to stop Pebble Mine. And if you really want to make a difference, pick up your fork.