Executive Summary: Samarga River Expedition Trip ReportNews & Program Updates
The Wild Salmon Center organized a joint Russian-American research expedition on the Samarga River in the Primorye Region of the Russian Far East from August 15-27, 2005. The Samarga River is of global significance in terms of its unique runs of masu, which are unlike those of any other watershed worldwide, and the great complexity of its habitat. The eight-person team consisted of ichthyology and forestry experts from TINRO-Centre Vladivostok, the USDA Forest Service, University of Montana Flathead Lake Biological Station, Far East State University, and the Wild Salmon Center. Traveling by raft, the team covered approximately 150km, beginning at the confluence of the Samarga with the Pukhi. The five primary purposes of the trip were:
- Improved characterization of the distribution and abundance of salmonid and commercial fish populations.
- Establishment of benchmarks for future condition and trend monitoring of biota, water, and habitat quality.
- Identification of riparian, floodplain, and tributary areas needing special protection/ management during future timber development.
- Flathead Lake Biological Station evaluation of the suitability of the Samarga River for inclusion in the Salmonid River Observatory Network (SaRON) Project.
- Determination of future information and research needs for facilitation of aquatic resources conservation and management in the area.
Snorkel and seine fishing surveys found abundant populations of masu salmon, especially in the upper floodplain from the confluence with the Pukhi to the confluence with the Prytky. This floodplain area and three major tributaries (the Dagdy, Issimi, and Sabu) were identified as priorities for special protection and management. Based on expedition findings, the following preliminary recommendations were developed for these areas:
- Riparian buffer zones should be measured from the widest extent of the historical floodplain, allowing the channel to freely meander across the floodplain over time and interact with floodplain vegetation and groundwater.
- Road construction and timber harvest by Terneyles Co. should be delayed in these areas until further research is completed (see below).
- Fish density and diversity, river feature biophysical complexity, and water quality data indicated that the Samarga river warrants inclusion in the Salmonid River Observatory Network (SaRON). Such designation would facilitate long-term monitoring programs, additional science-based management input for Terneyles, and possible construction of a biostation.
The following topics were identified as focal areas for future research and activities:
- Opportunities for collaborative training and planning with the USDA Forest Service regarding roads, planning, and management issues should be explored.
- Salmon life history diversity and strategies (the masu runs of the Samarga represent a unique genetic pool that is likely critical for future management and reintroduction of these fish into other areas of the Far East).
- The role of key tributaries in individual salmon species' spawning and rearing and in large wood recruitment on the main channel, to minimize impacts of planned logging roads.
- Geomorphic temporal and spatial variation and its role in biotic processes, in the goal of protecting biotic processes that play key roles in maintaining critical areas