Wild Salmon Center Newsletter Winter, 2011
In this issue
- New Protected Area in Russia
- Sakhalin Fishery Enters MSC Assessment
- International Salmon Forum Brings Together Russian and U.S. Youth
- Notes from the Field: Bringing Back the Blueback to Washington's Quinault River
- Conservation Agenda Gaining High-level Support in Russia
- ALSO: Ruling on Logging Run-Off in Oregon's State Forests; Competition between Wild and Hatchery Salmon; Kol Research Expedition; New Online Salmon Recovery Tracker; and Events and Updates.
Koppi River Preserve will protect prime habitat for the critically endangered Sakhalin taimen, Siberian tigers, and other wildlife in Russia
After a decade of work with our partners in the Russian Far East, the new 94,000 acre Koppi River Preserve has been created to safeguard wild salmon and the rich biodiversity of the Khabarovsk Region.
Through the combined efforts of WSC, the Khabarovsk Wildlife Foundation, and the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Khabarovsk Krai, over 200 miles of the Koppi River will be permanently protected.
The Koppi is home to more than 20 species of fish, including pink, chum, char, Doly Varden, cherry salmon and the critically endangered Sakhalin taimen. The Preserve will also provide key protections for a wide range of rare wildlife, including the Blakiston's Fish Owl, the Manchurian deer, and the Siberian tiger.
"This is a historic moment for a globally significant watershed. The Koppi River basin features an incredible range of biodiversity, and creating the preserve was a key step to its long-term conservation," said Guido Rahr, President of the Wild Salmon Center.
The Koppi is ideal for taimen and other salmonids because there are no dams on the river to prevent fish passage, and the undeveloped floodplain provides excellent spawning and rearing habitat. The refuge will also offer protection to a wide range of rare fish-eating bird species, such as Blakiston’s fish owl, Chinese merganser, and white-tailed sea eagle, which nest here.
Along with conserving a myriad of fish and wildlife species, the designation of the Preserve has important implications for local communities that depend on the Koppi River for commercial fisheries and for a healthy supply of clean drinking water.
There are plans to create a Koppi River Watershed Council to act as a regional governing body to coordinate sustainable watershed management, anti-poaching efforts, and discuss regional development opportunities, such as ecotourism and catch and release sport fishing.
The National Geographic Society's Conservation Trust, Neukom Family Foundation, Oak Foundation, Patagonia Inc., Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Turner Foundation, and the USDA Forest Service have supported conservation efforts of the Wild Salmon Center and Khabarovsk Wildlife Foundation to conserve the Koppi River watershed.
Sakhalin Island, Russia—Teenage delegates from Sakhalin, Oregon, and Alaska came together last summer to discuss salmon conservation issues and draft a “declaration” about the future of Pacific salmon from the youth perspective. The 1st International Salmon Forum was held in Portland, Oregon in 2009. This year's hosts, the Sakhalin Salmon Initiaitive (SSI), took great pleasure in sharing some of Sakhalin's richest salmon rivers with their Pacific Northwest counterparts. The Forum is part of a growing SSI education program that has made great progress over the last couple of years.
As part of their education, students visited a local protected area, toured a salmon hatchery and processing facility, and met with a representative from the oil industry about global economic and environmental issues. They were introduced to principles of ecotourism by a local guide and given an opportunity to try fly fishing. During one of their snorkeling excursions, they also had the unfortunate luck of an unplanned lesson on the impact of poaching when they came across the remains of a poacher's net.
Field training focused on four areas—riparian vegetation, water quality, macroinvertibrates, and spawning—and students met with experts in fish biology, hydrology, and botany. Research teams studied the impacts of habitat and water quality on salmon in the Ochepukha and Podorozhka rivers in southeastern Sakhalin, and groups made presentations based on their findings.
The format of the Forum allowed participants to engage in real-world activities that involved interpersonal and intercultural communication. Through investigating salmon rivers and creating joint policy recommendations, participants made friends and worked together despite language and cultural differences.
Students gained a deeper appreciation of the indigenous groups on Sakhalin and the cultural significance that salmon have within these cultures. In addition to a tour of the Sakhalin History Museum, students sampled traditional Nivkh food, competed in traditional sports, and heard live music in the Nivkh language.
Sponsors of the Forum included Wild Salmon Center, Sakhalin Energy, and The Freshwater Trust.
Russian fishing companies demonstrate their commitment to sustainable salmon fishing
After more than two years of preparatory work, 11 fishing companies that annually harvest up to 21,000 metric tons of pink salmon, have stepped forward to enter the full assessment phase of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification process.
"The MSC certification program is the gold standard eco-label for commercial fisheries worldwide and will provide significant market advantages for Sakhalin's fisheries that are awarded the label," said Sergei Didenko of the Sakhalin Salmon Initiative Center, a co-client of the MSC assessment.
In September 2009, the Iturup Island pink and chum fishery became the first Russian fishery—and the first salmon fishery since Alaska—to receive the MSC certification. The certification body, MRAG Americas, will conduct the full assessment with hopes of completion by late 2011.
WSC helps restore key sockeye spawning ground in Washington
The Quinault sockeye (known as "Blueback" to the Quinault people) is one of only seven evolutionarily significant units (ESUs) of sockeye salmon in the Pacific Northwest. It has a unique life history specifically adapted to the Quinault River system. Though the Blueback population is still relatively resilient, it has been rapidly declining since the 1950s. Over the years, the removal of old growth forests, logjams, and large woody debris have resulted in a nearly complete loss of the stable, off-channel salmon habitat that is critical to Blueback spawning.
When the Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) declared recovery of the Blueback to sustainable levels as a national priority in 2007, only 5-linear miles of off-channel habitats remained. To that end, the Quinault Department of Fisheries completed a long-term restoration plan for the Upper Quinault River Valley, identifying specific strategies to restore floodplain forests and salmon habitat. The restoration reach starts at the confluence of the north and east forks of the Quinault River and stretches 11 miles (18 km) to Lake Quinault. The cumulative benefits of the projects over the long term will help to stabilize the river and restore the natural habitat-forming processes that create and maintain productive off-channel salmon habitat.
In 2008, WSC partnered with the QIN, state, and federal managers on a project to install 12 logjams and stabilize existing natural logjams and large woody debris piles along a 0.5 mile stretch of side channel spawning habitat along Alder Creek. When WSC staff visited the project site in November, they were thrilled to see the effects of the log jams and observe Blueback spawning. WSC looks forward to continuing to support the QIN and other tribal partners in their ongoing efforts to protect and restore key salmon habitats in Washington's Olympic Peninsula.
What's so Special about the Blueback?
The "Blueback" is one of the few fish to return to the Quinault in the spring, filling an important seasonal abundance gap on the river. Blueback start entering the river as early as December, but the bulk arrive in May/June. They hold and mature in Lake Quinault for months before spawning in November/December.
Of all the sockeye, Blueback are the most prized. Their rich oil content results in a much tastier fish -- giving them a high market value. The Quinault have historically traded Blueback throughout the region, including to the Dutch whose own word for Blueback translates best to "excellence".
The Blueback is one of only seven evolutionarily significant units (ESUs) of sockeye salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Of those, two have been listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Quinault Indian Nation and Wild Salmon Center are committed to maintaining the genetic diversity of the Blueback and its "non-listed" status.
The Mitsubishi Corporation Foundation For the Americas provided support for Wild Salmon Center and the Quinault River restoration project.
Russian leaders and federal agencies make new commitments to conservation
In August 2010 Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited the South Kamchatka Federal Sanctuary. The sanctuary is home to the largest protected population of brown bears, which are attracted by an abundant supply of wild salmon. While there, he pledged support for the preserve to continue its fight against poaching. He also expressed concern over poaching in the Russian Far East and in November hosted a Global Tiger Summit to address the potential extinction of wild tigers across Asia due to poaching and loss of habitat. When asked in an interview by Larry King what his interest in tigers was, he replied "It’s not just tigers. I love nature. Thank God there are a lot of people in the world who feel like I do. I am just one of many."
Putin's words are reflective of an increasing number of Russian leaders who regard preserving Russia's natural resources as a national priority. At the Russian State of the Nation Address in November, President Dmitry Medvedev spoke of the need to conserve the country’s natural legacy for future generations and identified civil society, public-private partnerships and education as playing a crucial role.
"The health of our nation and its future advancement directly depend upon the natural legacy which we leave for our children." - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev
Moreover, both Putin and Medvedev have noted that impact to the environment must be considered with any development projects, and that promoting alternative economic opportunities such as tourism and renewable energy should be considered. They have also stressed the importance of protected areas and how NGOs and civil societies need to be a part of the solution.
As part of an effort to increase the participation of civil society in natural resource decision-making, the Russian Salmon Fund (RSF) was offered a seat on the Federal Fisheries Agency public council. The RSF was launched in 2008, with the assistance of WSC, as an all-Russian organization to work with government, businesses, and NGOs to promote salmon conservation.
Recent progress in leveraging government financing for conservation of salmon include approval of endangered Kamchatka steelhead and Sakhalin taimen as key species in Russia's Federal Target Program for Ecological Safety. This appropriation could direct over $35 million in federal funding to scientific research, protected areas, and development of sustainable tourism practices from 2012-2020. At a meeting in October 2010 on the strategy for development of Russia’s federal protected areas system, Putin pledged to increase the state budget for federal preserves by 30 percent starting in 2011.
Russia has also issued a decree mandating the creation of Federal Fishery Protected Zones on rivers with commercially-valuable fisheries and has approved criteria and methodology for their creation. WSC and the Russian Academy of Sciences provided expertise during the process of identifying priority salmon rivers. Earlier this year, a number of the priority rivers where WSC is working were nominated, including the Opala River on Kamchatka, the Nimilen in Khabarovsk Region, and the Langry on Sakhalin.
University to Benefit from Biostation on one of Russia’s Premiere Salmon Rivers
In 2006 WSC helped secure designation of the Kol River Salmon Refuge over an area of 544,227 acres and began construction of the world-class Kol Biological Station (Kol Biostation), setting a precedent in Russia for proactive conservation and research of whole-basin thriving salmon ecosystems. The Kol River system flows into the Okhotsk Sea in west-central Kamchatka. The river contains one of the richest and most productive assemblages of salmonid fish with an estimated five million returning each year. Species include native stocks of all six Pacific salmon species, as well as Dolly Varden char, white-spotted char, and the endangered Kamchatka steelhead. In a report commissioned by WSC in 2008, the value of salmon caught in the Kol Refuge was indicated to be between US $981,000 and US $3.7 million per year. The watershed provides habitat for Kamchatka brown bears, Steller's sea eagles, and numerous other marine and terrestrial bird and mammal species.
From 2004-2009, with support from the Moore Foundation and WSC, an international consortium of scientists and students led by the Russian Academy of Sciences conducted field research and determined a baseline for understanding the success of salmon conservation efforts in the Kol Refuge. In 2010, for the first time, a local university, the Kamchatka State Technological University, which belongs to the Federal Fishery Agency system of research institutions, took over management of the Kol Biostation. The University will receive federal funding to manage the Kol Refuge and run operations from the biostation (along with the Russian Academy of Sciences).
Last August the University organized its first field expedition with 10 students and nine scientists and professors, with support from WSC and Russian government funding. During the expedition, the team collected information on terrestrial and wetland ecosystems, including on birds, mammals, insects, and plants. Over the course of a three-week study, 257 samples of water and wetland plants, 90 samples of terrestrial plants, and over a thousand insect specimens were collected, and major vegetation groups were characterized.
Scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences and Moscow State University joined the students and local professors to share their knowledge and experience from previous expeditions on monitoring the biodiversity and population structure of pink and chum salmon, and studying the presence of the endangered steelhead. The initial findings of the research team show that salmon populations in the Kol River system are in good shape. This is due in part to successful anti-poaching efforts. A report based on the results of the research was presented in October at an international conference in Borok, Russia. Plans are underway for expanding biostation activities in 2011.
A recent study published in the journal Marine and Coastal Fisheries found that pink, chum and sockeye salmon are at historically high levels in the North Pacific Ocean, but the ocean may be overcrowded with hatchery salmon. The trends indicate that competition between wild and hatchery salmon will increase due to increasing hatchery releases combined with periodic shifts in ocean productivity.
The release of juvenile hatchery salmon has skyrocketed to about 5 billion fish per year, and the study found that more than one in five—originate in hatcheries. For populations in some regions, the percentage is significantly higher. In Asia, 76 per cent of all adult chum salmon from 1990 to 2005 came from salmon hatcheries. Studies on ecological interactions between hatchery and wild fish, the focus of last spring's State of the Salmon's conference, have shown that hatchery-bred salmon can compete with endangered wild runs for limited food resources, potentially hampering their recovery (see more on the 2010 conference and marine carrying capacity).
The study recommended that North Pacific managers should engage in serious discussions on how best to share common food resources in the ocean. Otherwise as future areas of ocean habitat shrink from climate change, hatchery fish may dominate the ocean and contribute to a perfect storm for wild salmon—up against higher competition, additional overfishing pressures and lower genetic diversity of wild salmon populations.
A full copy of the report is currently available online at American Fisheries Society Journals.
State of the Salmon helps launch a new web site for Oregon salmon and steelhead
State of the Salmon in collaboration with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) recently launched its first in a series of publicly accessible management performance accountability tools to track the status of salmon populations.
The State of Oregon maintains conservation and recovery plans for populations of salmon and steelhead listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). These conservation and recovery plans set goals for measurable viability criteria. Analyses of these criteria and additional data are now available to download. Salmon and Steelhead Recovery Tracker.
"This public-private partnership is an example of the cooperation we need to protect one of our region's most valuable natural treasures." - Governor Kulongoski
State of the Salmon is a joint program of the Wild Salmon Center and Ecotrust.
- Sakhalin Oil and Gas. WSC President Guido Rahr and Sakhalin Salmon Initiative Director Sergey Didenko gave presentations on environmental safety at a symposium of major oil and gas companies of Sakhalin Island, one of the largest producers in the Russian Far East.
- Exchange between US and Russian fish scientists and managers on climate impacts on salmon. US scientists from the University of Washington and WSC's State of the Salmon shared observations and methods for assessing impacts of climate on salmon in North America with Kamchatka scientists.
- The Russian American Pacific Partnership (RAPP). Improved cooperation and exchange of best practices in the areas of environmental protection and watershed management were proposed by WSC and included in the final recommendation of the Energy and Environmental Committee.
- Oregon Logging Ruling. A new settlement will require the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to develop stricter rules to protect streamside trees and prevent landslides, erosion and run-off due to logging and logging roads.
- Annual meeting of the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC). WSC's Rich Lincoln presented on the benefits of a North Pacific wild salmon monitoring network. NPAFC serves as a forum for promoting the conservation of salmon, steelhead, and ecologically-related species in the high seas area of the North Pacific Ocean.
- American Fisheries Society, Alaska Chapter. WSC's Randy Ericksen presented on sustainable fisheries and how NGOs can improve certification outcomes.
- Escapement Goal Methodology Workshop. Hosted by Trout Unlimited and sponsored by WSC.
- February 2-3, 2010: Sustainable Fisheries Coalition Workshop, Vancouver, BC.
- November 16-17: Save the Date! Symposium on Climate and Salmon: Adapting Management Strategies for the Future. Hosted by State of the Salmon in Portland, OR.