Sakhalin Governor Declares "Wild Rivers" ProtectionNews & Program Updates
January - February, 2006
In response to growing threats to the rivers of Sakhalin Island, particularly the growing proliferation of hatcheries on rivers with healthy salmon runs, the Wild Salmon Center, local scientists, fishermen, and other concerned individuals appealed to the regional administration to protect Sakhalin's most important rivers. The administration turned to scientists from WSC-partner Sakhalin Institute for Fisheries Biology and Oceanography (SakhNIRO), which offered a recommended list of rivers to be prioritized for protection. Sakhalin Governor Ivan Malakhov then officially designated 66 rivers, with a total length of over 2,000km, as the "Wild Rivers of Sakhalin." The Governor's decree prohibited the building of hatcheries on these rivers.
The importance of these Wild Rivers cannot be overemphasized. Because they include some of the most pristine rivers on the island, their preservation could provide a solid and diverse genetic "bank" of salmon populations, a good investment for the survival of wild salmon on Sakhalin. Protecting the Wild Rivers also makes good economic sense, as the people of Sakhalin Island are highly dependent on fishing. The protection of these rivers will insure against stock crashes, provide opportunities for fishing tourism and ecotourism outfits, and create local employment in the protected area management sector.
The Wild Rivers designation does not currently grant formal legal protection against threats other than hatcheries. The Sakhalin Regional Administration's Center for Coastal Fisheries and Commercial Oversight, headed by Igor Bystrov, intends to introduce legislation which will convey protected area status on these rivers and establish regulations for human activity. A pending Memorandum of Understanding between the Administration and the Wild Salmon Center will make official the future collaboration and exchange of expertise between the two centers on management of these rivers. Establishing effective protection of these rivers through this partnership is a key focal point of the WSC's multi-stakeholder Sakhalin Salmon Initiative.