Securing the Western Pacific’s wildest rivers
The Russian Far East contains some of the world’s most diverse, productive, and healthy river and ocean ecosystems, and it is a global priority for wild salmon conservation. Russia’s three main salmon producing regions in the Far East – Khabarovsk, Sakhalin Island, and the Kamchatka Peninsula – account for a third of the Pacific Rim’s wild salmon.
Over the last century, the remote regions of the Russian Far East have remained relatively intact, buffered from development threats. But these areas are now under increasing pressure due to loss of habitat, extractive industries, and large scale poaching, which is impacting the communities and ecosystems that have depended on wild salmon for generations.
Wild Salmon Center is working to ensure that Russia’s prime salmon territories stay intact, through protected areas, sustainable fisheries, scientific research, ecotourism and sportfishing development, and community-based conservation initiatives.
Priority protected areas
With our local partners, we have helped permanently protect more than 2 million acres of salmon habitat in the Russian Far East.
- Kol River Salmon Refuge – The world’s first headwaters-to-ocean preserve dedicated to salmon conservation protects 544,000 acres of the Kol and Kekhta rivers.
- Tugursky Nature Reserve – Nearly 80,000 acres of critical habitat in the Tugur watershed will be protected for over 20 species of fish — including large runs of chum, pink salmon and the threatened Siberian taimen.
- Shantar Islands National Park – This 1.2 million acre national park includes the entire Shantar Island archipelago and its surrounding marine waters.
- Koppi River Nature Reserve – 94,000 acres of important spawning and rearing areas for Sakhalin taimen and cherry salmon and critical habitat for a host of other wildlife are protected thanks to the efforts of the Khabarovsk Wildlife Foundation.
- Vostochny Refuge – The refuge protects 166,000 acres of two river basins, the Vengeri and Pursh-Pursh rivers.
More than 3 million additional acres require protection, for the long-term health of salmon. WSC is now focusing on this next generation of priority protected areas, including the Nimelen River in Khabarovsk and the Utkholok River on Kamchatka.
Since 2004, Wild Salmon Center has worked with partners in the Russian Far East to improve fishery management and assist commercial fishermen in protecting their fisheries. A key element of this work is the Salmon Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) Partnership, a collaborative industry-based initiative of leading seafood companies whose goal is to increase the volume of sustainable or improving wild capture salmon.
Today, 41% of salmon fisheries on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula are participating in Fisheries Improvement Projects or third party sustainability certifications. Altogether, FIP’s have generated more than 70,000 tons of third-party certified or FIP salmon — salmon that potentially brings a higher price to fisherman thanks to its sustainability.
To build on the success of the Salmon FIP Partnership and to accelerate the adoption of market-based improvement initiatives, Wild Salmon Center established Ocean Outcomes as an independent, global fishery improvement organization in 2014.
As strategic partners, WSC and O2 are implementing complementary activities to protect the long-term health of globally important salmon fisheries, particularly in Russia.
Wild Salmon Center is also working with conservation and fishing industry partners on Sakhalin Island to develop a Wild Salmon Territory in which fishermen would commit to combat poaching, eliminate in-river fishing, and keep the region hatchery free.
Pioneering scientific research
Our scientific research began in the Russian Far East in 1994, with the founding of the Kamchatka Steelhead Project along with Moscow State University. This groundbreaking project resulted in over 20 publications and a wealth of new information on the genetic diversity, population structure, and health of Kamchatka’s steelhead trout.
The Kamchatka Steelhead Project continues today, jointly administered with Moscow State and our partner organization, The Conservation Angler.
Boosting local economies
Since Wild Salmon Center’s founding in 1992, the organization has worked to increase the local economic impacts of conservation by promoting sportfishing and ecotourism on rivers in the Russian Far East.
As part of the Kamchatka Steelhead Project, we helped develop angling ecotourism on Kamchatka and trained local fishing guides to international standards. WSC and our partners at The Conservation Angler worked to build up successful catch and release sportfishing on rivers including the Zhupanova, Tigil, Yelovka, Ozernaya, TwoYurt and Savan rivers.
Today, more than 100 international anglers annually flyfish Kamchatka’s legendary rivers, sustaining a healthy ecotourism trade for local guides and tourism operators, and supporting conservation and scientific research through earmarked donations from each visiting angler.
Wild Salmon Center works with local organizations, government officials, and businesses throughout the Russian Far East to educate citizens about salmon, support community-based conservation planning and watershed restoration, and to assist with anti-poaching measures.
A major threat to the salmon population is loss of habitat due to degraded stream channels. Wild Salmon Center and local partners have worked hard to design science-based management mechanisms and recommend protection for high-priority salmon rivers.
Another major threat to regional salmon fisheries is large-scale poaching for caviar. Wild Salmon Center’s local partners collaborate with local authorities on hundreds of anti-poaching raids every year to stop the illegal caviar fishery and to protect migrating salmon.
We also team up with partners to host community meetings and town halls, youth education programs, community festivals, and other education and outreach events.