Russia’s single most abundant place for Pacific salmon
Stretching the length of California with just over 300,000 people, Kamchatka contains a vast network of rivers that remain free-flowing from headwaters to ocean and are virtually unaltered by human development. This region produces up to one-fourth of all wild Pacific salmon and hosts the greatest diversity of salmonid species on Earth.
Kamchatka is also the birthplace for salmon species’ formal names. In the early 1700s, as the Bering expedition explored the peninsula and cataloged wildlife species, it used local indigenous and Russian terms for newly identified salmon species. These names were eventually adopted as the scientific names for salmon.
A source of wealth
Wild salmon are the foundation of Kamchatka’s ecological, economic, and cultural welfare. The sizable economic impact can be seen on the Kol River on Kamchatka’s west coast, where the value of wild salmon and their habitat was estimated at between $784 million to $2.38 billion per year.
Many of Kamchatka’s rural and indigenous Koryak and Itelman people still rely on salmon for basic needs. Salmon support one in five jobs in Kamchatka and provide food for over 137 species. Kamchatka provides nesting and stopover sites for millions of waterfowl, supports the largest wintering area for Steller’s sea eagles, and hosts the highest brown bear density in the world.
Since the mid-1990s, a time of significant political flux in Russia, critical threats to Kamchatka’s wild salmon have emerged ̶ from illegal fisheries to extractive industries. An estimated 55,000 tons of salmon are harvested illegally from Kamchatka each year. Plans are in place to expand gold and platinum production as well as to develop oil and gas reserves on the western Kamchatka shelf. The effects of development on pristine rivers and lakes include increased runoff from road construction, and contamination from pipeline leaks and violations.
A plan for protection
Recognizing that development is inevitable and necessary to support this remote region, Wild Salmon Center is collaborating with government, business, local communities, and fisheries to safeguard healthy wild salmon runs. We are working with partners Saving Salmon Together to develop a regional protected area plan that would ensure key salmon watersheds remain pristine, from headwaters to the ocean, safeguarding the livelihoods of communities that rely heavily on healthy Kamchatka salmon runs.