New reserve safeguards 200 miles of Russia’s Koppi River for taimen and tigers.
Khabarovsk, Russia – The Khabarovsk Krai Administration passed a resolution to establish the Koppi River Preserve that will protect 94,000 acres (38,032 ha) of prime fish and wildlife habitat in the Russian Far East. Over 200 river miles of the Koppi River and its tributaries will be permanently protected.
The creation of the Koppi River Preserve marks the completion of more than a decade of collaborative work between the Wild Salmon Center, the Khabarovsk Wildlife Foundation, and the ministry of natural resources of the Khabarovsk Krai to win formal protection of the biologically diverse Koppi River watershed. WSC and KWF began conducting ecological surveys of the Koppi Watershed in 2000, the results of which helped support the legal designation of the area as a protected preserve. The research also led to the addition of the Sakhalin taimen to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species in 2006.
“The most valuable section of the Koppi River has been granted protection in perpetuity to conserve and maintain populations of wild salmonids,” said Yuri Kolpak, Director of the regional arm for Wildlife Conservation and Protected Areas.
The Koppi River basin is home to over 20 species of fish, including the cherry salmon and the critically endangered Sakhalin taimen, the largest and oldest relative of Pacific salmon. The preserve also contains important habitat for several economically valuable fish species such as pink salmon, and provides a migration corridor for wild ungulates and large mammals, including Manchurian deer, moose, brown bear, 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 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 the myriad benefits to the area’s fish and wildlife, the designation of the preserve has important implications for local communities. The Koppi River is an important source of clean drinking water and its protection will help preserve the quality of life and cultural heritage of the area’s indigenous peoples.
Alexander Kulikov of the Khabarovsk Wildlife Foundation, whose efforts were instrumental in winning the preserve’s designation, noted, “Creation of a preserve on the Koppi River is a successful example of cooperation among international and regional non-governmental organizations, regional government, and the local district administration and communities, including the indigenous Orochi.”
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.