September 19, 2023

Bristol Bay Leaders – and Sockeye Salmon – Celebrated in Nation’s Capital
BBNC brings wild Bristol Bay sockeye to Washington D.C.; honors supporters of this sustainable resource

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC), along with numerous partners, hosted the sixth Bristol Bay Wild Salmon Celebration in the nation’s capital last week. The 2023 event brought together the Alaska Congressional Delegation, BBNC Board Members and staff, and other dignitaries and supporters to celebrate — and eat — wild Bristol Bay salmon. BBNC also recognized four Alaska leaders with Fish First awards to honor their commitment to and advocacy for Bristol Bay.

“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 our honor to recognize these incredible leaders and their work to protect Bristol Bay – while enjoying the amazing fish that are our lifeblood. Thank you to those who joined us in DC for the Wild Salmon Celebration and Americans from coast to coast who continue to support Bristol Bay.”

BBNC bestowed four very deserving honorees with the “Fish First” awards. They are:

  • Brian Kraft, Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge owner and Bristol Bay Alliance founder
  • Nanci Morris Lyon, Bear Trail Lodge owner and Bristol Bay Fly Fishing & Guide Academy lead instructor
  • Representative Mary Sattler Peltola, first Alaska Native congresswoman and long-time advocate for rural Alaska and its fisheries
  • Verner Stor Wilson III (posthumous), commercial fisher, former Bristol Bay Native Association Director of Natural Resources, and passionate advocate for protecting Bristol Bay

Kraft, Lyon, and Rep. Peltola accepted the awards in person, while Wilson’s parents, Verner II and Jacqueline, and sister Helena Batman accepted in his memory. The Fish First awards recognize those who have supported and championed Bristol Bay and its wild salmon. Awardees are honored with a handcrafted salmon and trout skin basket created by Bristol Bay resident Marlene Nielsen.

The first Wild Salmon Celebration took place in 2017. Past Fish First 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 Governor Jay Hammond and his late wife Bella Hammond, the late Bristol Bay leaders Bobby Andrew and Harvey Samuelsen, Alaska State Representative Bryce Edgmon, Ekwok Tribal Council President Luki Akelkok, Norm Van Vactor, Alannah Hurley, former Alaska State Senator Rick Halford, and the late Bob Gillam.

This has been a momentous year for Bristol Bay. In addition to another healthy wild sockeye salmon return, in January the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized long-sought Clean Water Act protections against Pebble mine. In May, many Alaskans attended a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden where President Biden highlighted his administration’s work in Bristol Bay.

Other sponsors and supporters of the 2023 Celebration include:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • Anchorage Brewing Company
  • Arc Initiatives – a coalition partner in the fight against Pebble mine and valued advisors to United Tribes of Bristol Bay
  • Bessenyey & Van Tuyn, LLC
  • Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association
  • Leader Creek Fisheries
  • National Fish & Wildlife Foundation
  • The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development
  • Pacific Seafood Processors Association
  • Six-7 Strategies
  • Strategies 360

In addition, this week is Bristol Bay Salmon Week, where Washington, D.C.-area restaurants feature wild Bristol Bay sockeye on their menus. The restaurants are diverse in their fares, and each is taking a unique approach to preparing Bristol Bay sockeye. Highlights of the salmon celebration and Bristol Bay Salmon Week on social media can be tracked using the hashtag #BristolBaySalmonWeek. Bristol Bay Salmon Week is sponsored by Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association (BBRSDA).


About Bristol Bay Native Corporation: Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) is a diversified Alaska Native investment corporation dedicated to the mission of “Enriching Our Native Way of Life.” Established through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, BBNC works to protect the land in Bristol Bay, celebrate the legacy of its people, and enhance the lives of its shareholders. Learn more at




Press Release

Three of the Fish First awardees with Senator Lisa Murkowski, BBNC Board Chair Russell Nelson, and BBNC President and CEO Jason Metrokin
Senator Dan Sullivan speaks at the Wild Salmon Celebration
Representative Mary Sattler Peltola, also a Fish First awardee, speaks at the Wild Salmon Celebration
Fish First awardee Venor Stor Wilson III’s parents, Vernor II and Jacqueline, and sister Helena Batman, accept his posthumous award
Fish First awardee Brian Kraft with BBNC Board Chair Russell Nelson (left) and BBNC President and CEO Jason Metrokin (right)
Fish First winner Nanci Morris Lyon accepting her award