River in Russia's Sakhalin Region© Dagi mit Regenbogen

Sakhalin Island

Sakhalin Island

Wild salmon serve as a treasure and source of hope for a changing island

Sakhalin Island, only the size of Massachusetts, is home to 11 salmonid species and is the third most abundant salmon region in the world after Alaska and Kamchatka. Its rich marine and freshwater ecosystems support some of the Pacific Rim’s rarest and most commercially valuable populations of salmon, including the critically endangered taimen.

Fishing is the second largest industry on the island, supplying 20% of global Pacific salmon catch and generating $500 million in personal income annually.

Sakhalin Island is more populated than many remote regions of the Russian Far East and also supports a large oil and gas industry. Expansion of oil and coal development and related infrastructure, in addition to large-scale poaching, are endangering sensitive salmon ecosystems. The Wild Salmon Center is working to identify and safeguard priority salmon strongholds to ensure a balanced approach to conservation and development on Sakhalin.

Protecting priority rivers

Through vigorous scientific assessment, and support for efforts to combat poaching, restore spawning areas, and obtain permanent legal protection, WSC helped partners Sakhalin Environment Watch in their efforts to re-establish the 166,000-acre Vostochny Refuge. It protects two entire river basins, the Vengeri and Pursh-Pursh, from headwaters to sea, and it conserves some of the last intact forests on Sakhalin Island.

We are building conservation capacity on Sakhalin through a network of salmon coalitions. In 2008, Sakhalin’s first local salmon group was created, and residents began to mobilize around wild salmon protection in the face of threats like oil and gas extraction and large-scale poaching. Sakhalin is now home to five salmon councils, operated with guidance from WSC and regional partners, which serve as a model for the Kamchatka peninsula and the Russian Far East mainland.

A new approach to fishing

Wild Salmon Center supports new collaboration between Sakhalin’s leading fishing companies and local conservation groups in preventing poaching, protecting habitat, and monitoring development impacts on salmon fisheries. Currently, we are helping partners develop a Wild Salmon Territory, in which fishermen would commit to combat poaching, eliminate in-river fishing, and keep the region hatchery free.

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