GREEN

Mick Fanning The Conservationist: First Look At His Expedition To Alaska's Bristol Bay

"I'm completely in awe of this place."

21/10/2016 7:06 AM AEDT | Updated 21/10/2016 2:04 PM AEDT
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Mick Fanning has spent most of his life outdoors, such is the luck of a world champion surfer.

So it comes as no real surprise that he's passionate about preserving the world around us and the environment that has given him so much.

Now, in his first big move since his break from surfing, he's teamed up with Australian conservationists 'Wild Ark' in their endeavour to save some of the world's wildest places.

"Connecting with nature and the outdoors has always been core to my every day," Fanning said.

This past month the surfer headed to Alaska's Bristol Bay in his first expedition with the group.

"I'm completely in awe of this place and the animals that inhabit the Bristol Bay watershed," Fanning said.

Kirstin Scholtz

In the video above and in images shot by WSL photographer Kirstin Scholtz and exclusively provided to The Huffington Post Australia, Fanning joins founder of 'Wild Ark' Mark Hutchinson, in exploring the 74,000 square km of pristine Alaskan wildness, which is also under threat from a proposed open pit gold and copper mine, known as Pebble Mine.

"I'm baffled that parts of the state are constantly under threat of open pit mining. The mining companies refer to the land in Alaska's southwest as "desolate", Fanning said.

"Well, after camping, hiking, fishing and flying over this zone I can tell you it is the opposite of desolate. This place is alive!"

Kirstin Scholtz
This is Mick's first expedition as Global Ambassador for 'Wild Ark'.

Bristol Bay is the largest supplier of salmon in the world, affecting both the local economy and ecosystem. But in the face of an estimated $400 billion mineral mining opportunity the locals have had to fight hard to put the viability of future generations ahead of short-term financial gains.

"Basically you would be taking this wild, pristine place that serves as a salmon factory to the world and sacrificing it for one-time use mineral extractions," said Tim Bristol of SalmonState Alaska, an organisation that promotes good laws policies and practices to ensure that Alaska remains the home of the greatest wild salmon fishery in the world.

"There is enough copper in the world, we need to do more recycling and frankly, we don't need this gold," he said.

Kirstin Scholtz
It is estimated that the proposed Pebble Mine will produce between 2.5 and 10.78 billion tons of waste that will have to be treated and managed forever.

This was Fanning's second trip to Alaska's Bristol Bay after surfing its icy waves earlier this year.

"There is no guarantee that mining in this area wouldn't have a negative impact on the waterways disrupting the salmon run and causing a massive collapse to the Alaskan and global ecosystem," Fanning said.

"It is definitely not a risk worth taking."

  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz

    After competing at the Hurley Pro Trestles in Southern California, 3x World Surfing Champion Mick Fanning left his surfboards behind for Bristol Bay in Alaska’s south west.

  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz
    Overlooking Alaska from a six-person float plane. 
  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz

    The area boasts major river systems, such as the Nushagak, the Naknek, the Kvichak and the Mulchatna, which see the return of millions of salmon a year, as well as literally thousands of smaller rivers, streams and lakes. 

  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz
    All of these gorgeous images were shot by official photographer of the World Surf League, Kirstin Scholtz.
  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz
    Mick Fanning went back to Alaska for the second time this year. This time his quest was not to catch an icy wave but rather the allure of a trophy-sized rainbow trout.
  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz

    “I'm completely in awe of this place and the animals that inhabit the Bristol Bay watershed,” Fanning said.

  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz

    “I loved my recent surfing trip to Alaska but this trip will give me insight into the challenges faced by the Bristol Bay area and provide insight as to how we can make a difference to protecting this wild place," Fanning said. 

  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz

    “This is the Serengeti of the Alaskan wilderness,” said Brian Kraft of Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge, on the savebristolbay.org website.

  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz
    Mick Fanning is the new global ambassador for conservation company Wild Ark.
  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz
    Mick Fanning joined founder of Wild Ark, Mark Hutchinson on an educational expedition to one of the wildest, most remote areas of Alaska and arguably the world.
  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz

    “We enjoyed catch-and-release fly-fishing for rainbow trout, we saw wild bears feeding on the spawning sockeye salmon, spotted moose trotting through the tundra from our plane and more," said Fanning. 

  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz
    If the Pebble Mine was to be approved in the Bristol Bay “Everything from the smallest insect up to brown bears would be in big trouble,” said Tim Bristol of SalmonState Alaska. 
  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz
    A brown bear enjoys the icy Alaskan waters. 
  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz
    The area accommodates eco-sustainable sports fishing. It is this pristine environment that allows for some 50 to 60 million sockeye salmon to return to Bristol Bay every year. 
  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz
    Mick Fanning looking stoked at his catch. 
  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz
    Mick Fanning with manager Ronnie Blakey who joined him on the expedition. 
  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz

    "Here snow fed streams flow crystal clear from the mountains, through rolling tundra and into the sea. Anglers from around the world see this as the pinnacle of fishing opportunities. There are not many, if any, places like this left in the world," said Brian Kraft of Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge.

  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz
    The expedition crew in front of the 6-person float plane that took them from Anchorage to Bristol Bay. 
  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz
    Mick Fanning and the crew set up camp for the night. 
  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz

    "There is no guarantee that mining in this area wouldn't have a negative impact on the waterways disrupting the salmon run and causing a massive collapse to the Alaskan and global ecosystem,” Fanning said.

  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz
    Approving the Pebble Mine, "is definitely not a risk worth taking," Fanning said. 
  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz
    Tim Bristol believes that the Bristol Bay ecosystem is world class example of good resource management by both the people who have lived there for thousands of years and the people who have since joined them.
  • Mick Fanning's Expedition To Alaska
    Kirstin Scholtz

    “As the Alaskan’s will tell you, the ones who have lived there forever, ‘You can’t eat gold," said Tim Bristol. 

'Wild Ark' is a modern conservation movement. They're on a mission to save the world's wild places. To find out more about the work their doing or to get involve, head here.

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