BBNC honors supporters of wild Alaska salmon

Four Alaska advocates for wild Alaska salmon were honored with “Fish First” awards during the sixth Bristol Bay Wild Salmon Celebration in the nation’s capital in mid-September. 

The “Fish First” awards were presented to Rep. Mary Sattler Peltola, D-Alaska, Brian Kraft and Nanci Morris Lyon, and posthumously to the late Verner Stor Wilson III for their roles championing Bristol Bay and its wild salmon. Officials from the Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) presented each award with a handcrafted salmon and trout skin basket created by Bristol Bay resident Marlene Nielsen. 

“The milestones that Bristol Bay has achieved this year would not have been possible without the work of our Fish First awardees,” said Jason Metrokin, president and CEO of BBNC. “It is an honor to recognize these incredible leaders and their work to protect Bristol Bay, while enjoying the amazing fish that are our life blood.” 

Peltola is the first Alaska Native member of Congress and a long-time advocate for rural Alaska and its fisheries. Kraft is the owner of Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge and founder of the Bristol Bay Alliance. Lyon is the owner of Bear Trail Lodge and is a lead instructor at the Bristol Bay Fly Fishing and Guide Academy. Wilson was a commercial harvester, former director of natural resources for the Bristol Bay Native Association and a passionate advocate for protecting Bristol Bay. Peltola, Kraft and Lyon accepted their awards in person, while Wilson’s parents, Verner II and Jacqueline, and sister Helena Batman, accepted in his memory. 

BBNC first began the Wild Salmon Celebrations in 2017. 

Past honorees include Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, the late Congressman Don Young, the late Senator Ted Stevens and his wife Catherine Stevens, the late Gov. Jay Hammond and his late wife Bella Hammond, the late Bristol Bay leaders Bobby Andrew and Harvey Samuelsen, Alaska State Rep. Bryce Edgmon, Ekwok Tribal Council President Luki Akelkok, Norm Van Vactor, Alannah Hurley, former Alaska State Senator Rick Halford and the late Bob Gillam. 


Metrokin noted that is has been a momentous year for Bristol Bay, including the Environmental Protection Agency finalizing the Clean Water Act protections against construction of the Pebble Mine abutting the Bristol Bay watershed and a rose garden ceremony at the White House where President Joe Biden highlighted his administration’s work in Bristol Bay. 

Sponsors of the 2023 celebration included Alaska Airlines, Anchorage Brewing Company, Leader Creek Fisheries, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, Pacific Seafood Processors Association, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, which sponsors the overall event, and others. 

During the week, Washington D.C. area restaurants featured wild Bristol Bay sockeye salmon on their menus. 

Verner Stor Wilson III posthumously received a “Fish First” award from the Bristol Bay Native Corporation. From left, BBNC Board Chairman Russell Nelson; Verner’s parents, Jacqueline and Verner II; Verner’s sister Helena Batman; and Jason Metrokin, president and CEO of BBNC.   
Photo courtesy of BBNC