ANCHORAGE, Alaska – President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that he’s removing more than 52,000 square miles of waters off Alaska’s coast from consideration for oil and gas exploration or drilling.
The president said in a video announcement that Bristol Bay and nearby waters, covering an area roughly the size of Florida, would be withdrawn from consideration for petroleum leases. He called Bristol Bay one of the country’s great natural resources and a massive economic engine.
“It supports about $2 billion in the commercial fishing industry,” he said. “It supplies America with 40 percent of its wild-caught seafood.”
The bay is north of the Alaska Peninsula, which juts out westward from mainland Alaska at the start of the Aleutian Islands chain.
Petroleum leases sold there in the mid-1980s were bought back in 1995 at taxpayer expense for $95 million after the Exxon Valdez spill, said Marilyn Heiman, U.S. Arctic director for Pew Charitable Trusts. Fisheries around the world are in decline, but Bristol Bay’s well-managed fisheries are among the more productive in the world and worthy of protection, she said.
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