Where We Work
We are working with Russian partners to secure Kamchatka as a global stronghold for wild salmon and the many species they sustain.
Russia's 1000-mile long Kamchatka Peninsula 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.
Many of Kamchatka’s rural and indigenous 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.
Wild salmon are the foundation of Kamchatka's ecological, economic, and cultural welfare. The economic value of wild salmon and their habitat in the Kol Salmon Refuge ranges from US $784 million to US $2.38 billion per year.
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.
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 to protect entire, pristine salmon watersheds, from headwaters to the ocean, and to safeguard the livelihoods of communities that rely heavily on the economic benefits and food security provided by healthy Kamchatka salmon runs.
Wild Salmon Center is working with local stakeholders to establish whole-basin salmon protected areas in priority areas across Kamchatka. The network will encompass diverse river systems, protecting up to 4 million acres of habitat for salmon, bears, eagles, seals, and hundreds of other species. Designations will range from regional wildlife refuge status to federal fishery protected zones where commercially-valuable salmon runs are sustainably managed.
In 2006, the Kamchatka Governor designated the first in the world full-basin protected area for salmon conservation in the Kol/Kekhta river system. Other important salmon areas--the Utkholok/Kvachina, Zhupanova, and Opala rivers--are now under consideration for protection.
Building conservation capacity
Since the establishment of the Kol River biological station in 2006, WSC and its partners have supported field research for scientists and students from international, national, and local universities to develop a baseline for understanding the success of salmon conservation efforts in the Kol Salmon Refuge.WSC is actively engaging stakeholders in the process of resource management on important salmon rivers by promoting responsible sportfishing and ecotourism, and combating illegal fishing. Following a successful model on Sakhalin Island, Kamchatka has established its first public salmon council to lead efforts on anti-poaching, stream restoration and monitoring, public education, and involving local communities in watershed management.
Sharing knowledge across borders
WSC supports and organizes professional exchanges, trainings, and workshops to share experiences between the U.S. and Russia on protected area management, ecotourism, sustainable fisheries, and best practices in extractive industries. Outfitters from Kamchatka have visited top sportfishing operators in Alaska to learn about successful practices for catch and release sportfishing.