Keith Rose

In Russia, a Growing Call for Salmon Conservation

In Russia, a Growing Call for Salmon Conservation

Business leaders connected with the Russian Salmon Association and WSC are stepping up in big ways for salmon and rivers.

In the late 1990s, catch-and-release was still a pretty unknown concept among Russian fishermen.

“Almost nobody thought of releasing a fish which you have successfully caught,” says Nikita Mishin, a Moscow-and-London-based businessman and member of the Wild Salmon Center board since 2015. 

Russian business leader and avid fly fisherman Nikita Mishin.

But for Mishin, who was first introduced to fly fishing in Kamchatka by Wild Salmon Center founder Pete Soverel, catch-and-release represented a new and beautiful way to be close to nature, to “read the river” and truly understand fish behavior

Some twenty years later, Mishin and his fly rod have traveled the globe. Yet back in Russia, fly fishing and catch-and-release still remain fringe practices among the nation’s fishermen and womeneven as poaching and hatchery operations increasingly threaten Russia’s wild salmon strongholds

Now Mishin, through his charitable Dar Foundation, is one of a small but growing cadre of private philanthropists and activists working to boost better fishing practices in Russia before it’s too late. His strategy? Reach the youngest Russians, and win them over to a conservation mindset.

Nikita Mishin is one of a small but growing cadre of private philanthropists and activists working to boost better fishing practices in Russia before it’s too late.

In 2020, Dar Foundation (“dar” means “gift” in Russian) made its second grant to Boomerang Club, a WSC-supported outdoor adventure and youth conservation education group based on remote Sakhalin Island. For Mishin, Dar Foundation’s investment in Boomerang Club represents a marriage of two personal priorities: education and salmon conservation. 

Sportfishing tournament at Sakhalin’s 2014 Salmon Festival. (PC: Sakhalin Environment Watch.)

This summer, Dar Foundation’s gift to Boomerang will help the club to revive Sakhalin Island’s popular Salmon Festival in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk—with catch-and-release lessons as part of the event. The grant also supports Boomerang’s salmon habitat conservation program, which now reaches schoolchildren and educators across the Russian Far East with interactive lessons on salmon life history, the costs of poaching, and more.

The Dar Foundation grant creates a space for Boomerang Club to expand its conservation message to include fly fishing and catch-and-release.

“Boomerang promotes a healthy way of fishing and handling fish,” says Mishin. “Their programs are quite impressive. They not only show kids the fishing methods, but also how fish spawn and migrate, and how to interact with the environment with care and responsibility.” 

Boomerang Club, an outdoor adventure and conservation education group based on Sakhalin Island, brings lessons in salmon life history and ecology to schoolchildren across the Russian Far East. (PC: Valentina Mezentseva.)

According to WSC Western Pacific Program Director Mariusz Wroblewskiwho, along with WSC President Guido Rahr, helped place Boomerang on Mishin’s radar—the Dar Foundation grant creates a space for Boomerang Club to expand its conservation message to include fly fishing and catch-and-release.

When you’re talking about protecting rivers and wild salmon, we believe it’s key to include sport fishers in the conversation,” says Wroblewski. “Now Boomerang has the support to build out a great fishing component for its educational programming.”

Anglers are a critical component of wild salmon conservation. (2014 tournament, Sakhalin Environment Watch.)

The Dar Foundation’s 2020 grant to Boomerang comes through the young Russian Salmon Association, and directly complements that organization’s new national catch-and-release campaign, which also launched last year with WSC support.

This ambitious, first-of-kind promotional campaign continues its outreach in 2021 in salmon fishing regions across Russia. Sakhalin, home to the Wild Salmon Territory and one of the nation’s most productive pink salmon fisheries, is a critical location for the campaign’s urgent work to build a more sustainable fishing culture in Russia.

“It will take a powerful coalition to secure the future of Russia’s incredible salmon resources. These new partnerships are a promising sign that a larger conservation movement is on the rise.”

According to Wroblewski, Boomerang is already actively distributing RSA’s educational materials at events like this year’s revived Salmon Festival. Ultimately, he hopes that support from organizations like Dar Foundation, RSA, and WSC will encourage Boomerang to permanently integrate fly fishing and catch-and-release into its curricula.

“It will take a powerful coalition of local educators, philanthropists, fishers, and business leaders to secure the future of Russia’s incredible salmon resources,” says Wroblewski. “These new partnerships are a promising sign that a larger conservation movement is on the rise.”

Sakhalin’s Wild Salmon Territory includes the 165,000-acre Vostochny Reserve. Its two large basins, the Vengeri and Pursh-Pursh rivers, have healthy populations of pink, chum, and coho salmon, as well as char and other salmonids. (PC: Sakhalin Environment Watch.)
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