In this issue
- Salmon Stronghold Legislation
- Joining Rangers from Khabarovsk's First Salmon Council on a Koppi River Raid
- Protecting Washington's Shorelines
- Elk Creek Conservation Area
- Notes from the Field: The Long (Bumpy, Cold, Wet) Road to Protecting Salmon on Sakhalin Island
- Champion for Wild Salmon: Vladimir Smirnov Fights Against Illegal Fishing in Russia
- Donor Profile: Spirit Mountain Community Fund
- ALSO: Kamchatka Fishery Makes Changes to Become More Sustainable; Conservation Toolkit; Sakhalin Salmon Park and Protected Area Progress Report; Goldman Environmental Prize; Appointment to Pacific Fishery Management Council; and Events and Updates.
Salmon Stronghold Legislation
West Coast Senators Introduce Bill to Conserve Salmon Strongholds
July 22--Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and the entire West Coast Senate delegation introduced federal legislation to conserve the healthiest remaining wild Pacific salmon ecosystems in North America—“salmon strongholds.” A similar version of the bill was reported favorably out of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation last year, and included in a natural resources omnibus package, which failed to pass in the final days of the 111th Congress.
The Pacific Salmon Stronghold Conservation Act (S. 1401) will establish a new, proactive U.S. policy that recognizes the need for conservation of salmon strongholds as a complement to ongoing efforts to recover federally-listed salmon populations. The legislation aims to get ahead of continued salmon declines by supporting the protection and, if necessary, the restoration of ecosystem processes within currently healthy salmon-bearing watersheds.
"Salmon continue to be a vital part of our communities, generating over a billion dollars in economic activity and thousands of jobs in Washington state," said Senator Cantwell. "Salmon serve as an iconic symbol of the Northwest’s natural beauty and for generations have been an integral part of our lives."
"The many challenges to sustaining wild Pacific salmon stocks require us to make strategic investments now to ensure they remain at the core of our region’s prosperity." - Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
"Without a more comprehensive approach to salmon conservation, we run the risk of losing our last remaining viable populations and healthiest watersheds to the same threats that have led to declines elsewhere," said Guido Rahr, President and Chief Executive of Wild Salmon Center. "This represents a fundamental flaw in federal salmon conservation policy, which this Act remedies."
Next Steps: The Senate bill is tentatively scheduled for mark up during the next Executive Session of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, estimated to occur in September. A companion bill will likely be introduced in the U.S. House after the Congressional recess.
Koppi Salmon Council a First for Khabarovsk
The Khabarovsk Region's first watershed council (called public salmon councils in Russia) was created in the winter of 2011, just months after the establishment of the Koppi River Nature Reserve. The council will work to coordinate among local residents, indigenous peoples, and businesses who all have a vested interest in keeping the river and wildlife healthy and safe. The people of the Sovetsko-Gavansky district were inspired by the efforts of their neighbors in the Russian Far East (Sakhalin and Kamchatka), as well as in the U.S. where public involvement in local watersheds has made a difference. They saw that communities around the world cared for the future of their natural places and wanted to do the same for their salmon rivers.
One of the first items on the agenda of the new salmon council was to check the activities of the logging companies working in the Koppi River basin, with the goal of easing tensions between different groups that benefit from the use of the land. The council also assisted the indigenous Oroch community in the records and registration work on their assigned hunting areas, and had a joint anti-poaching raid of the Protected Areas Enforcement.
By Tatiana Boyle, Sakhalin and Khabarovsk Program Manager
Only its first year in operation, the Koppi River Nature Reserve succeeded in establishing a framework for enforcement of the protected area, but not the budget to help carry it out. This created a special challenge for the Regional Department of Wildlife Conservation and Protected Areas Enforcement (DPW) who is responsible for appointing rangers. As one of the solutions, DPW assigned ranger duties to its staff who oversees the hunting grounds that are adjacent to the Reserve. Newly appointed staff conducted area raids using their own vehicles, fuel, boats and engines. Meals for the raids are provided by donations from the local chapter of the Hunters and Fishermen Society. To reach the Koppi River, rangers travel 100 km/62 mi from the city of Sovetskaya Gavan on unpaved and very rugged roads. Then they cover 180 km/110 mi by river to check for evidence of poaching, habitat destruction, and other illegal activities.
During the raid we monitored wildlife activities and human presence along the main river channel from a boat. When possible, our group made stops to assess activity on the forest roads as well. During the three-day raid we didn’t encounter any unauthorized activities. In the past this area has been plagued with poachers who strip the salmon of their valuable roe and leave the carcasses to rot. Anti-poaching activities have been more successful now that the rangers have the support from the State.
We did, however, see plenty of beautiful landscape and wildlife. We recorded an abundance of grayling, a member of the salmonid family. Among the terrestrial fauna we saw moose (including a week-old calf!), black bears, and endangered species such as Steller’s sea eagles, mandarin ducks, Siberian grouses, and scaly-sided mergansers. Natural succession in the forests surrounding the main river channel and its tributaries was demonstrated by the remaining isolated primary stands of Korean pine (listed in Russia's Federal Red Data Book), aspen and birch with dominating groves of the 40-feet-high Chosenia arbutifolia -- a Pleistocene relic of the willow family that survives along the Pacific coast in river valleys. It was a beautiful sight to behold when a pair of mergansers took flight from the rapidly flowing river with grace and vitality that can only be infused by nature sustained in beautiful balance.
Protecting Washington's Shorelines
Washington State has about 28,000 miles of shorelines* that provide unique economic, cultural and recreational opportunities. These shorelines offer rearing and spawning habitat for a multitude of salmon species, but are also in high demand for residential and industrial development. Under the Shoreline Management Act (1972), each city and county must create and adopt a Shoreline Master Program which governs local land use policies and regulations for shoreline uses to balance development with conservation so that ecological functions, such as the rearing and spawning of salmon, are not lost. The state legislature has directed 39 counties and nearly 260 cities to update their Programs by 2014, since most had not been updated for over 30 years.
WSC Washington Program Manager, Devona Ensmenger, provided technical input to Clallam County, the City of Forks, the Department of Ecology and the Olympic Natural Resource Center to update the Shoreline Master Program for shorelines in the Quillayute River watershed—a salmon stronghold. WSC has proposed more stringent shoreline regulations in areas vital to salmon rearing and spawning, including the upper reach of Elk Creek, and expect nearly 78 river miles to have increased protection through this process.
Elk Creek Conservation Area
New nature trails help people and salmon alike enjoy the Calawah River
Olympic Peninsula, WA -- the 256 acre Elk Creek Conservation Area officially opened to the public last June with 1.25 miles of new hiking trails. The Conservation Area provides a rare opportunity to the Forks community as it is one of only two established nature hikes in the Forks area. It is also a reserve for steelhead, Chinook and 35% of the Calawah River’s spawning coho, and provides habitat for elk, marbled murrelet and other wildlife.
Once the property of Rayonier Forest Resources, the land was purchased by WSC in 2004 and deeded to the North Olympic Land Trust (NOLT) in 2009, as they would be better able to monitor and steward the land. With modest improvements to the property, NOLT has helped build a lot of new support for the conservation area.
"We are so excited to be opening up one of our privately owned properties to the public, where locals can literally step out of their backdoor and hike through one of the most beautiful, ecologically important parts of the Calawah watershed, enjoying all that makes Elk Creek such a special place," noted Lorrie Campbell, NOLT Stewardship Manager.
About 75 hikers and their canine friends were on hand for the opening event. Among them were Rep. Van De Wege (D), Rep. Steve Tharinger (D), project partners, and local families. The Forks Mayor, Byron Mononhon, was very appreciative and supportive of this project and applauded all partners involved in making it happen. The four interpretive signs (one is devoted to wild salmon) and the 65-foot suspended log bridge were particular favorites. In addition to restoring the area and adding hiking trails, NOLT has launched a new educational program directed at illegal ATV use to highlight the negative impacts it has on Elk Creek. "We understand the community’s enthusiasm for riding, but hope that they will embrace our vision for Elk Creek as a place for people to go for a beautiful hike and student groups to learn in an outdoor classroom setting," states Brenda Campbell, AmeriCorps Intern and Elk Creek Conservation Area Environmental Education Coordinator.
Protected Area Progress Report
Sakhalin Island: On August 11 the Governor of Sakhalin Oblast signed an order "On the Approval of the Concept of Long-Term Target Program of Sakhalin Oblast—Support and Development of Nature Protected Areas under Regional Jurisdiction, 2012 - 2018". This for the first time provides clear support and a road map for the establishment of new protected areas on Sakhalin, including a key WSC priority: a major protected area on the Dagi River to save one of the strongest remaining populations of Sakhalin taimen. Thank you to our Sakhalin partners and the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company (a founding sponsor of the Sakhalin Salmon Initiative) for helping us reach this major conservation milestone!
Construction Begins on Russia's First Salmon Park
The site of the new Sakhalin Salmon Park was buzzing with activity this summer. Construction workers from Olympus, LTD, led by Nikolai Kan, were setting the foundation forms and supporting concrete piles for the building of Ecology Education Center. Staff from Sakhalin Energy Investment Company (a founding sponsor of the Sakhalin Salmon Initiative) were busy as well, clearing nature trails from overgrown vegetation and trees fallen throughout the area during unmerciful winter storms. Sizeable preliminary work accomplished in the spring to finalize designs for the park's structures, survey the land, mark the trail, and identify areas for interpretive stations helped pave the way for the summer crew to break ground on the park. WSC Sakhalin and Khabarovsk Program Manager Tatiana Boyle was on hand to monitor the progress and assist our Sakhalin partners (Sakhalin Salmon Initiative Center, Outdoor Education Club "Boomerang", and Sakhalinrybvod) in planning the next stages of the project. "Seeing the Park’s master plan taking shape in reality--what will become the nation's first nature park dedicated to Sakhalin salmon which our people depend on, is a deeply inspiring experience," stated Aleksandr Kim, the Park's chief-architect.
The Long (Bumpy, Cold, Wet) Road to Protecting Salmon on Sakhalin Island
By Leila Loder, Western Pacific Program Manager
Last spring WSC, together with the Sakhalin Salmon Initiative*, organized the first community ecological forums (within the watershed council framework) in three of the six Sakhalin districts where the councils operate. Normally, workshops are held in Uzhno-Sakhalinsk, the capital of Sakhalin Island, but this year an interdisciplinary expert group visited the actual districts where the councils operate, engaging five out of six councils. Our group consisting of nine individuals whose expertise range from fish biology, research, and education to policy and strategic planning, traveled together by van and train the long distances between watershed councils. The first leg of our journey took us a few hundred miles north to Uglegorsk along rough, dusty roads originally constructed for the coal industry, which dominates much of Sakhalin's southwest coast. Next we traveled several hundred miles to Nogliki, back via the way we came, up north and east, and then south to Smirnykh. As we made our long journey, trudging through snow and mud and sometimes having to heat dinners over half-working burners in our small shared kitchens at night, our hearts were filled with appreciation for the Sakhalin people and their efforts to make the watershed councils a success.
We were impressed with not only the great turnout at the forums (with over 150 participants, including government officials, fishermen, local community groups, and indigenous representatives), but also with the level of engagement. The councils took greater initiative, organizing exhibitions and presentations to the public on council operations, vision, and activities. As a result of the 2-day conservation planning processes, each community identified the three main threats for their districts (destruction of salmon habitat due to water pollution, poaching, and social problems), and developed objectives and actions for the upcoming years. We were inspired to see not just the council members, but the local people standing up and volunteering not only ideas, but their time and talents to improve the quality of their salmon rivers. For instance, in Uglegorsk district a young adult community group asked to participate in outreach, river bank clean-up, and salmon conservation-themed events. In Nogliki, indigenous community members expressed interest in expanding their conservation education program, and members from the Poronai council proposed a council network project with the Smirnyk and Tymovsk districts to collaboratively address issues on an important salmon river they share.
People were coming up to us and sharing how much it meant to have the delegation of experts travel all the way to their districts and watersheds. It showed them our level of commitment and inspired greater faith on their part that change can be accomplished. Sergei Zolotukhin, Head of the Pacific Salmon Laboratory (TINRO, Khabarovsk), noted how well the visiting experts were received by the community and put forth that such a seminar would be especially helpful in the Amur region of Khabarovsk. Anatoly Semenchenko from the Sakhalin Salmon Initiative Center commented, "the public felt the problems were addressed on their level, the level they understood; local residents felt their newfound strength and opportunities to have an impact on the pressing issues." And even a visiting reporter from the Shakhtersk area, Anna Odinokova, was struck by the optimism and stated very succinctly, "Change can be brought about only by those who truly care about what’s going on around them and what will happen to us and our children."
The Sakhalin councils are now in the process of finalizing their long-term conservation strategies based on the drafts developed at these conservation planning workshops. Under a shared goal of diverse stakeholder groups, these strategies will provide a clear vision and framework for the yearly work plans each council develops, and will include greater local resident involvement in watershed protection and salmon conservation.
* The Sakhalin Salmon Initiative is a collaborative effort to promote conservation and sustainable use of wild salmon and the ecosystems upon which they depend, to build institutional capacity for conservation and to promote sustainable economic development on Sakhalin Island. It is managed by the Sakhalin-based SSI Center and overseen by the SSI Coordinating Committee that includes the Sakhalin Oblast Administration, Wild Salmon Center, regional and federal agencies, academic institutions, business enterprises, commercial fishermen, indigenous communities and other local and international NGOs. Sakhalin Energy is a founding sponsor of the SSI, which is also supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, USDA Forest Service, Turner Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation and other international foundations and private donors.
Dmitry Lisitsyn, Chairman of Sakhalin Environment Watch, has been awarded the 2011 Goldman Environmental Prize, one of the most prestigious environmental awards in the world. Dmitry is one of six 2011 Goldman recipients and was recognized for his work to conserve the critically endangered ecosystems of Sakhalin Island, Russia.
Since 2001, WSC has been a partner of Dmitry's and his team at Sakhalin Environment Watch (SEW), supporting their work to protect Sakhalin Island's marine and terrestrial ecosystems. WSC, SEW, and Sakhalin Energy Investment Company (SEIC) are founding members of the Sakhalin Salmon Initiative, a public-private partnership focused on conservation and sustainable management of Sakhalin's most important renewable resource—wild salmon.
Dmitry and SEW have been successfully fighting salmon poaching on Sakhalin—working to increase enforcement efforts and by establishing public watch dog groups to protect priority salmon rivers. In 2007, WSC and SEW helped create permanent safeguards for one of Sakhalin's most important wild salmon watersheds—the Vostochny. Lisitsyn's leadership led to the creation the Vostochny Wildlife Refuge, a 165,000 acre protected area that includes two entire ocean-draining basins, the Vengeri and Pursh-Pursh rivers, and protects habitat for healthy populations of pink, chum, and coho salmon, as well as char and other salmonids.
Champion for Wild Salmon
Vladimir Smirnov is the kind of fishermen that gives us hope for the future of wild salmon in Russia. He is an archetype of the growing sustainable fisheries movement in the Russian Far East. Through his work as the President of Plavnik Fishing Company, as Chairman of the Smirnykhovsky Regional Fisheries Association, and as a founding member of the Sakhalin Salmon Initiative (SSI), Vladimir is a fisherman who cares about Russia's wild salmon and strives to protect this invaluable resource for future generations. He has made a name for himself by taking the fight directly to poachers in his region. In late 2010, his company became one of the nineteen fishing companies that entered the full assessment phase of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification process. Because of Vladimir's limitless passion to preserve the wild salmon and wild salmon ecosystems of Sakhalin Island, Wild Salmon Center recognizes Vladimir Smirnov as a 'Champion for Wild Salmon'!
How did you get started fishing?
I started fishing for crab. Everyone says they want to conserve this resource, but in fact they do the opposite. This was particularly evident in the Russian crab fishery. The whole system is built on illegality and it is extremely difficult to change. So I switched to salmon fishing. I saw an opportunity to affect change positively, because the salmon fishing gear is passive and the salmon runs are abundant.
I bought a company and started to learn and create positive working conditions for myself and my employees. People started to relate to the wild salmon resource as their own and therefore care about its sustainability. We saw that conditions were ripening for a new relationship with wild salmon resources in Russia. We started fighting against illegal fishing. We were really the only ones at the time.
Shortly after, I learned about the Wild Salmon Center (WSC) and I realized that our goals were identical and that we could work together. That was a really critical time in the history of my fishery, as the government was planning on building hatcheries there. This was really dangerous.
How did you stop hatcheries from being built around your fishery?
I was able to meet with the Vice-Governor (of the Sakhalin Oblast) at the time. I showed him photos of my operation and how it looked before I bought it. I told him that the salmon populations are abundant; therefore hatcheries were not needed in this region. He picked up the phone and had my river removed from the list of hatchery sites and included in a list of rivers significant for preserving the gene pool and diversity of salmon populations.
I started to meet more regularly with WSC and then there was the Sakhalin Salmon Initiative conference in 2006. It was the first time I spoke in public.
What are some of the biggest threats to salmon on Sakhalin?
When we first arrived in the Smirnykhovsky region, illegal fishing was out of control. Poachers were very well organized. After they stripped females for red caviar, they would bury the carcasses in the ground using tractors and then cover the hole so the police couldn’t find it. One time, a tractor ran over an old hole and fell in—all the fish had rotted away! I am sure the tractor driver will never forget that experience!
We started our business carefully and methodically. We were able to nearly eliminate poaching in our region. I became a founding member of the Sakhalin Salmon Initiative Center. We have been able to do a lot in comparison to the other regions of Russia. The federal authorities take us very seriously. They listen to us. Working with international organizations helps us a lot. Before decisions are made or something irrational is done, the Russian authorities think really hard. And they listen better.
Some people will always covet our rivers and salmon resource. And we will always need to be on guard. This is the situation now with the proposed in-river fishing parcels, which could lead to serious over exploitation of wild salmon runs in the region. Historically, there has never been in-river fishing on Sakhalin. Now the fisheries agencies are planning on creating sections for commercial harvest in the rivers. They should be left alone so that fish can reach their spawning grounds without being harassed.
What does the future of Sakhalin salmon fisheries look like?
I think the future looks very good, especially if the Russian authorities decide not to go ahead with allocating in river fishing parcels and just keep the commercial fisheries along the coast line as currently arranged. Three regional pink salmon fisheries on Sakhalin have entered full MSC assessment. We hope our fishery is awarded MSC certification in the near future. There is a lot of global interest in Sakhalin salmon, which, by the way, has the highest quality and best taste!
We need to continue to fight against illegal fishing. We must continue to work hard on this and never surrender! We will continue to fight.
Fishermen in Sakhalin are organizing and showing they can be an effective force for positive change
In response to a recent decree establishing commercial in-river fishing parcels in the salmon rivers of the Russian Far East, more than 700 people including fishermen and conservationists gathered on a clear spring day in Yuzhno Sakhalinsk to hold a protest demonstration. Waving banners stating, "Krainy Resign," "Already too lazy to fish in the ocean?" and "In-river fisheries will lead to the disappearance of taimen," protesters showed their outrage at the decision to create in -river fishing parcels. Experience suggests that in-river fishing nets can be easily abused, lead to over harvest, and prevent wild fish from reaching their spawning grounds. The protesters organized a resolution signed by more than 1,400 supporters that demanded a repeal of the new decree. Russian authorities have not yet responded to the public concerns.
The first fishery from the Kamchatka Peninsula, one of the world's most productive fishery regions, entered the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) assessment process last spring. The Ozernaya River sockeye fishery, located in Southwest Kamchatka, is the largest and most commercially significant sockeye salmon fishery in Asia. WSC and the World Wildlife Fund have been working together to support the sustainability of Kamchatka wild salmon ecosystems for years. By linking our support of sustainable fisheries with efforts to protect critical salmon habitat, the Ozernaya River watershed could become a model for wild salmon ecosystems across the Pacific Rim. The MSC full assessment will be completed 2012.
The Secretary of Commerce recently appointed the Director of State of the Salmon (a WSC project), Rich Lincoln, as one of 14 voting members on the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC). The Council is one of eight regional fishery management councils established by the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976. With jurisdiction over the 317,690 square mile exclusive economic zone off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California, PFMC manages fisheries for about 119 species of salmon, groundfish, coastal pelagic species (sardines, anchovies, and mackerel), and highly migratory species (tunas, sharks, and swordfish). Rich's 3-year appointment followed a nomination by State of Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, and recognizes the importance of diverse backgrounds in the federal fisheries management decision process to include perspectives from conservation NGOs. This new role addresses a variety of species and management issues much broader than salmon, but the Council’s increasing focus on ecosystem based management and interconnected ocean food webs provides an important platform to help ensure resource and fishery sustainability, for which Rich will continue to contribute his support and leadership.
Wild Salmon Center launched the "Salmon Ecosystems Conservation Planning Toolkit" in August—an online resource for the conservation community. Available on the WSC website, the Toolkit offers concepts and best practices, case studies that highlight these tools in action and resource links to external sources of additional information. The goal is to empower the conservation community to consider the many objectives of salmon conservation in a transparent, flexible, and credible manner.
WSC would like to thank the MJ Moore Foundation, Esri, Ecotrust and US Forest Service for their generous support, which has made the development of this toolkit possible.
The Spirit Mountain Community Fund's focus is to improve the quality of life in Northwest Oregon through community investments that provide lasting benefits consistent with the Tribe’s culture and values. Since 2009, the Community Fund has supported Wild Salmon Center's effort to sustain and restore the health of Oregon's Tillamook State Forests. By protecting the Tillamook and its wild salmon rivers, we are safeguarding critical water supplies for nearly half a million people, helping maintain salmon populations that are important to the North Coast economy, and keeping the forest on a positive trajectory for increased carbon sequestration.
With the help of the Spirit Mountain Community Fund, WSC has created a coalition of conservation partners, including Northwest Steelheaders and the Sierra Club. Our goal is to support solutions that provide both environmental protection to our state forests and address the need for an alternative source of local government revenue that is not tied to timber harvest. We have succeeded in prohibiting clear cutting in the best 20% of older forest habitat and in maintaining extra protections for critical salmon habitat. To support more balanced management for the long term, we are developing community support for jobs in forest restoration as well as alternative revenues for county governments.
The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde through the Spirit Mountain Community Fund fulfills their Native tradition of potlatch, a ceremony at which good fortune is distributed. WSC's President Guido Rahr was invited to participate in this ceremony last June where he was presented a check for $20,000 for WSC's work in the Tillamook.
- July 11-12, 2011: Russia America Pacific Partnership (RAPP) annual meeting in Kamchatka, Russia with representatives of Russian and US governments, major businesses and NGOs.
- August 25, 2011 (1:30 pm): 2011 Oregon Governor's Fund for the Environment, Portland, OR.
- November 15-17, 2011: State of the Salmon hosts the workshop "Salmon in a Changing Climate: Practical management options for an era of environmental change" in Portland, Oregon. Be sure to register before September 17 for special early bird pricing.
- December 9, 2011: International Taimen Symposium and Workshop as part of the annual meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology in Auckland, New Zealand.