Wild Salmon Center Newsletter Fall, 2009
In this issue
- First Russian Fishery Certified as Sustainable
- Notes from the Field: Going Wild in Alaska
- Youth Salmon Stewardship Summit
- Exploring the Remote Koppi River
- Visiting Students from Kamchatka University
- New Partnerships for Sustainable Fisheries
- ALSO: Updates on Tillamook, Sustainable Fisheries Workshop, State of the Salmon Conference and Ecoinformatics Workshop
Iturup Island fishery is the first in Russia to be awarded the MSC label and the first salmon fishery to be certified since Alaska
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is the world's leading third party certification program for wild capture fisheries. MSC rewards fishery best practices and promotes the best environmental choices in seafood. Last month the Iturup Island pink and chum salmon fishery in the Kuril Islands of the Russian Far East became the first Russian fishery awarded the coveted MSC label. The fishery is operated by Gidrostroy, a joint stock company that joins a growing list of seafood corporations who understand that the long-term supply of salmon and other seafood depends on effective management and conservation. As demand for sustainable seafood increases, fishing companies that implement best practices stand to benefit economically. WSC is collaborating with a number of partners including World Wildlife Fund, Sakhalin Salmon Initiative Center, and Sustainable Fisheries Partnership to advance the principles of sustainable salmon fisheries in the western Pacific.
Like Alaska's salmon fisheries, the Iturup Island fishery committed to implement a number of conditions or management changes as part of the MSC process, including taking steps to minimize the potential impact of hatcheries on wild salmon populations--hatchery salmon can place wild salmon populations at risk in several ways including mixing of hatchery and wild stocks, ecosystem and genetic impacts, and disease transfer.
"Among major Russian fishing companies, Gidrostroy is the first and, to this day, the only company that has been awarded the Marine Stewardship Council certification," says Sergei Didenko from the Sakhalin Salmon Initiative Center." Gidrostroy's commitment to sustainable fisheries is a turning point for the fisheries sector and a sign that sustainability has arrived in Russia."
- Look for the MSC label and choose wild salmon over farmed. View the MSC certified fish to eat list.
- Let your local grocers and restaurants know that you prefer sustainably sourced seafood. Download the Seafood WATCH Pocket Guide.
- Support WSC and our efforts to secure healthy, abundant wild salmon runs.
Copper River, Alaska
By Tom Miewald, Conservation Planner
For the past year, the Wild Salmon Center has been providing technical assistance to a project led by the Ecotrust Copper River Program in collaboration with the US Forest Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. This science partnership is developing watershed-scale habitat models that will be used for prioritizing conservation actions in the basin. This trip focused on the Klutina and Tonsina sub-watersheds of the Copper River, with the purpose of validating the accuracy of the habitat models and improving them.
Before heading out into the wild, the team received a two-day training from Dr. Gordon Reeves of the US Forest Service and was then put in the capable hands of team leader Dr. Allison Bidlack of Ecotrust. For the first leg of the trip, we took a float plane to the upper part of the Tonsina River and spent the next seven days floating down the river collecting data. The second leg consisted of a week on the Klutina River. I was in charge of following sampling protocol, figuring out our location, and what areas to sample next. This often meant white-knuckle trips down rapids, looking at the GPS and maps and determining if we were at the designated site. No going back if we missed it!
In the process of lugging an array of monitoring gear, conducting "death marches" through bear country, and taking plunges into the ice cold rivers, I also remembered to take in the pristine, wild beauty of the region and marvel at the hundreds and hundreds of big, red sockeye salmon swimming right past me on their journey upriver.
With the data collected, the next step is for Ecotrust and WSC to improve the performance of the habitat models to be used for conservation planning in the region, and hopefully extrapolate the models to other parts of the Copper River and Alaska.
Students from across the Pacific unite to learn about wild salmon
Understanding the keys to healthy juvenile salmon habitat was the top priority at the first ever Salmon Stewardship Summit, an ecologically focused camp sponsored by WSC and partners Sakhalin Salmon Initiative, The Freshwater Trust, and the Siuslaw Institute. Students and teachers from Sakhalin Island (Russia) joined their Oregonian counterparts for the nine-day summit at the picturesque Camp Arrah Wanna near Mt. Hood, Oregon.
At the camp, the students and teachers divided into Russian and American science inquiry teams to conduct research projects focusing on the question: what role do side channels play in providing habitat for juvenile salmonids? The assignment encouraged students to think about the importance of habitat for conserving and restoring healthy salmon runs. Students assessed water quality and other features critical to evaluating habitat, such as wildlife surveys, macroinvertebrate sampling, and stream morphology. On the record breaking 102 summer days, students particularly enjoyed "sampling" the water quality of the cool Salmon River. The research results were presented in both languages during the camp's closing ceremony.
The Summit took place on the fifth anniversary of the creation of the Sakhalin Salmon Initiative (SSI), a collaborative effort to promote conservation and sustainable use of wild salmon on Sakhalin Island.
Taking important steps toward Protected Area status
Last summer, WSC's Khabarovsk Program Manager Tricia Melnik and regional partners embarked on an expedition on the Koppi River, one of WSC's priority basins in the Russian Far East. It is home to a tremendous diversity of wildlife, including Brown bears, Amur tigers, Manchurian deer and moose, and a relatively strong population of rare and ancient Sakhalin taimen. The primary purpose of the trip was to determine potential locations for inspector stations for the future protected area. Additionally, photographs from the expedition will be used for educational materials.
The Koppi expedition brought many challenges and many rewards, such as breathtaking vistas, hooking an admirable 12 kg, 85 cm taimen, enjoying make-shift accordion lessons by the campfire, and visits from the local wildlife.
Prior to the expedition, Tricia and partners met with several local stakeholders, including the head of the local municipal government, the director of the Bochenskiy Federal Nature Preserve (located adjacent to the future Koppi River protected area), as well as river lease holders and local businessmen. All of these stakeholders have expressed an interest in the conservation work and supporting the future Koppi River Fisheries Refuge. WSC's partner organization, the Khabarovsk Wildlife Foundation, reported that the documentation process for the Koppi River Fisheries Refuge is reaching its final stages, a major milestone towards attaining official designation (estimated in early 2010). The road to creating a protected area is long and challenging, but the benefits to salmon and the surrounding ecosystems will be felt for years to come.
Koppi River, Khabarovsk
- Estimated Protected Area designation: 2010
- Proposed area protected: 210,040 acres
- Protected zones: spawning, sport fishing, recreational, and traditional fishing
- Over 20 species of fish fauna with abundant pink salmon and Dolly Varden, and relatively abundant Cherry (masu) salmon, white-spotted char, chum salmon, and Amur grayling.
- Wildlife: Abundant Manchurian deer and moose, Brown bear, Amur tigers; rich bird fauna including some species listed in the Red Book of the Northern Russian Far East: scaly merganser, mandarin duck, great fish owl, and Steller's sea-eagle.
Inspiring and informing a new generation of salmon conservationists
Ekaterina Alexeeva and Alexander Tunkeev, students from the Marine Sciences Department at Kamchatka State Technical University, visited Oregon for a two week work practice sponsored by WSC, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), and Oregon State University (OSU). This exchange is part of WSC's commitment to inspire and inform a new generation of salmon conservationists. In order for conservation efforts to achieve positive results in the long-term, they must be accompanied by significant investment in environmental education.
The work practice took place at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center (OHRC) in Alsea, a state-of-the-art research facility that examines issues related to wild and hatchery salmon in order to best conserve wild stocks. Under the direction of facility managers and Dr. David Noakes of OSU, the students participated in all functions of the research center. They sampled and tagged fish, maintained tanks and raceways, and monitored fish growth. They also assisted graduate students at the OHRC with projects ranging from behavioral analysis of wild Coho salmon to the effects of diet on hatchery fish released into the wild.
By the end of their stay at the OHRC, Katya and Sasha had acquired an overall perspective of current salmon policy and practices in Oregon. They witnessed first-hand Oregon's move towards habitat restoration and monitoring as a way of protecting and strengthening wild salmon populations. In an interview with KEZI TV (Eugene, OR), Sasha stated, "This information is very important for us. I hope return to Kamchatka and teach people about this." Ryan Couture, Facility Manager at the OHRC, elaborates, "The role of people on Kamchatka is to preserve some of the last remaining pure wild salmon runs in the world. I hope these students take what they've learned about Oregon’s successes or failures in fish management and spread the word."
WSC brings progressive fishermen and seafood buyers to the table to improve salmon management in Russia.
Sitting around a table covered with red caviar, black bread and ice cold vodka, are a crew of unlikely bedfellows: two salmon conservationists, a pair of burly Russian salmon fishermen, and three major seafood buyers (The Fishin' Company, Birdseye Igloo, and Icelandic USA). These strange bedfellows have at least one thing in common--an abiding interest in abundant, healthy, and productive salmon fisheries. With this in mind, WSC organized a trip to Sakhalin to connect Russian fishing companies with international seafood buyers committed to sourcing sustainable seafood. Our objective was to utilize major buyers' interest in sustainability to help nudge Russian salmon fisheries towards best practices and away from the unsustainable fishing that is threatening salmon runs across the Russian Far East.
The group spent a couple of days with us and our partner Howard Johnson from Sustainable Fisheries Partnership in the Aniva Bay region in southern Sakhalin. They were introduced to several of Sakhalin's largest salmon fishing operations, observed a trap net fishery in action, and toured two processing plants. One recurring issue with buyers is lack of infrastructure in the Russian Far East. Without processing and transport capacity, high quality and sustainable sources of salmon cannot reach the markets where they are most valued. Something as simple as a lack of freezer capacity can be a formidable barrier to sustainability.
An update on MSC certification work on Sakhalin was provided by the Sakhalin Salmon Initiative. In addition to JSC Gidrostroy, four regions on Sakhalin have now entered the sustainability pipeline, completed a MSC pre-assessment, and are currently planning to enter full MSC assessment in early 2010. But the next step towards certification is a big one--development of MSC action plans, assembling relevant datasets, identifying data gaps, and making recommendations for future corrective actions that may be necessary for certification. To make this next advance towards sustainability, all key stakeholders are needed at the table, including partners in the government and private sector.
- In a September meeting, the Oregon Board of Forestry voted to uphold its earlier ruling to increase the areas open to clear cutting in the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests from 50% to 70% of the forest. WSC has joined a coalition of twelve NGOs to petition the ruling and work toward a sustainable solution that will not put more watersheds in a "high risk" category for environmental damage. Find out more.
- November 4-5 State of the Salmon workshop on Ecoinformatics "Maximizing your data: what can informatics do for you?" in Portland, Oregon.
- November 16-17 WSC hosts the annual Sustainable Fisheries Workshop in Portland bringing together partners from the Western Pacific.
- May 4-7, 2010 State of the Salmon will host its international conference "Ecological Interactions between Wild and Hatchery Salmon" in Portland.