Securing the Western Pacific’s wildest rivers
The Russian Far East contains some of the world’s most diverse, productive, and healthy river and ocean ecosystems, and it is a global priority for wild salmon conservation. Russia’s three main salmon producing regions in the Far East – Khabarovsk, Sakhalin Island, and the Kamchatka Peninsula – account for a third of the Pacific Rim’s wild salmon.
Over the last century, the remote regions of the Russian Far East have remained relatively intact, buffered from development threats. But these areas are now under increasing pressure due to loss of habitat, extractive industries, and large scale poaching, which is impacting the communities and ecosystems that have depended on wild salmon for generations.
Wild Salmon Center is working to ensure that Russia’s prime salmon territories stay intact, through protected areas, sustainable fisheries, scientific research, ecotourism and sportfishing development, and community-based conservation initiatives.
Priority protected areas
With our local partners, we have helped permanently protect almost 7 million acres of salmon habitat in the Russian Far East.
- A. F. Middendorf Tugursky Protected Area – 1.7 million acres protected around the Tugur River, one of the last great strongholds for Siberian taimen. This builds on earlier protections established in 2014 on the Tugur.
- Maisky River Reserve – This massive 2 million-acre reserve in a remote, roadless part of Khabarovsk conserves some 300 kilometers of the Maia River’s mainstem rivers and tributaries. The Maia is a major tributary of the Uda, an important salmon and taimen stronghold in Khabarovsk.
- Kol River Salmon Refuge – The world’s first headwaters-to-ocean preserve dedicated to salmon conservation protects 544,000 acres of the Kol and Kekhta rivers.
- Shantar Islands National Park – This 1.2 million acre national park includes the entire Shantar Island archipelago and its surrounding marine waters.
- Koppi River Nature Reserve – 94,000 acres of important spawning and rearing areas for Sakhalin taimen and cherry salmon and critical habitat for a host of other wildlife are protected thanks to the efforts of the Khabarovsk Wildlife Foundation.
- Vostochny Refuge – The refuge protects 166,000 acres of two river basins, the Vengeri and Pursh-Pursh rivers.
- Nimelen Nature Refuge — The Nimelen Nature Refuge encompasses more than 72,000 acres in the biologically diverse Nimelen River watershed, a cold water tributary to the Amur River. It’s home to rare flora and fauna such as ghost orchids, wolverines, Siberian roe deer, velvet scoters, as well as vigorous pink runs and important spawning grounds for summer and autumn chum.
Since 2004, Wild Salmon Center has worked with partners in the Russian Far East to improve fishery management and assist commercial fishermen in protecting their fisheries. WSC has partnered with Salmon Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) Partnership, a collaborative industry-based initiative of leading seafood companies, to increase the volume of sustainably sourced salmon and improve practices around wild capture. In 2014, Wild Salmon Center established Ocean Outcomes as an independent, global fishery improvement organization.
Today, 70% of Kamchatka’s annual catch is certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or has entered the certification process. WSC continues to work with partners in Russia and internationally, including ForSea Solutions, to protect the long-term health of globally important salmon fisheries in the Russian Far East.
Wild Salmon Center is also working with conservation and fishing industry partners on Sakhalin Island to develop a Wild Salmon Territory in which fishermen would commit to combat poaching and eliminate in-river fishing.
Pioneering scientific research
WSC’s on-going scientific work in the Russian Far East focuses on two species, Sakhalin and Siberian taimen, which serve as key indicator species for the health of salmon and trout strongholds throughout much of the region. These research efforts take three approaches:
- Understanding extinction risk and describing ecological and genetic differences among a group of key river populations within their natural range;
- Describing migration, life history patterns, and foodwebs;
- Carrying out river expeditions to identify key habitats (particularly spawning habitat) and developing methods to estimate adult population abundance to provide a baseline for our conservation work.
In Khabarovsk, Russia, we’ve been conducting field studies to better understand the feeding patterns of taimen, which grow to enormous size by consuming adult salmon. Local Siberian taimen in Khabarovsk are the only populations that feed on returning adult Pacific salmon.
Boosting local economies
Since Wild Salmon Center’s founding in 1992, the organization has worked to increase the local economic impacts of conservation by promoting sportfishing and ecotourism on rivers in the Russian Far East.
As part of the Kamchatka Steelhead Project, we helped develop angling ecotourism on Kamchatka and trained local fishing guides to international standards. WSC and our partners at The Conservation Angler worked to build up successful catch and release sportfishing on rivers including the Zhupanova, Tigil, Yelovka, Ozernaya, TwoYurt and Savan rivers.
We also support the development of fly fishing outfitters and lodges in Khabarovsk, including on the Tugur River.
And we advise the Russian Salmon Association to support their catch-and-release campaign for developing conservation-minded fishing standards throughout Russia.
Today, thousands of international anglers annually flyfish Kamchatka and other rivers in the Russian Far East, sustaining a healthy ecotourism trade for local guides and tourism operators.
Wild Salmon Center works with local organizations, government officials, and businesses throughout the Russian Far East to educate citizens about salmon, support community-based conservation planning and watershed restoration, and to assist with anti-poaching measures.
A major threat to regional salmon fisheries is large-scale poaching for caviar. Wild Salmon Center’s local partners collaborate with local authorities on hundreds of anti-poaching raids every year to stop the illegal caviar fishery and to protect migrating salmon.
We also team up with partners such as Boomerang Outdoor Club to host community meetings and town halls, youth education programs, community festivals, and other education and outreach events.
Over three decades of work with Russian partners, Wild Salmon Center has supported more than 50 exchanges bringing together scientists, conservationists and government officials from Russia and the United States to talk about best practices and visit each other’s watersheds – all in the name of improving salmon conservation across the North Pacific.