Cherry (masu) juveniles in the Samarga River.

Cherry (masu) juveniles in the Samarga River.

Samarga full rapid assessment

The Samarga River is a unique and relatively untouched center of biodiversity in the Eastern Sikhote-Alin Mountains. It may be considered the model water body for the Primorye region of the Russian Far East. This river is located in northeast Primorsky Krai (Primorye). This watershed is a part of an ancient nature complex, in which the natural environment is still very pristine because there are no roads, many mountains, and difficult coastline access. The Samarga is the biggest river (220 km length) of the northern Sikhote-Alin. Healthy populations of pink, cherry (masu), and chum salmon, Dolly Varden, and Sakhalin char still exist here. The Samarga basin is also home to the largest population of a rare salmonid species – Sakhalin taimen – still in healthy condition.

The Samarga watershed is a unique ecosystem comprising many rare species: Japanese yew, ginseng, Amur tiger, Himalayan bear, Amur mountain goat, scaly merganser, and fish owl. The diversity of biotopes provides for a great diversity of resident and anadromous fish. The watershed now faces the onset of industrial development, particularly in timber exploration and harvesting, and the construction of a Sukpai-Nelma road, which would cross pristine areas.

This area is very rich in timber, metals, and hunting and fishing resources. The absence of roads and industrial centers explains the high natural resources potential and good environmental situation. If the decision of logging in the basin proves to be irreversible, then a protective forest zone around the river should be assigned not only for the main channel, but also to the 3rd and 4th order tributaries. The forests of the area have so far preserved the productivity of the salmon ecosystem and the traditional way of life of indigenous Udeghe people.

Laws are needed to give the land a special status for use by indigenous people, organized as the Samargin Udeghe Society. Recognizing and legitimizing the rights of Udeghe people for fish and forest resources should also solve some problems of protection and sustainable use of natural resources. It is necessary to start, along with a well-managed ecotourism program, a public awareness program for local residents.