Two areas in the east of Russia totalling 3.7 million acres – home to various salmon species and 100-pound taimen – have been declared protected.
In a huge step forward for the protection strategy championed by the Wild Salmon Centre (WSC) and its Russian partners, the region’s government has set aside an area one and a half times the size of the Yellowstone National Park in the US.
The reserves, pristine salmon ecosystems, mainly along the remote, roadless Tugur and Maia river watersheds, will be safeguarded from logging, mining and development.
The area is considered a Shangri-La by fly fishermen and the further promotion of catch and release fishing is seen as an opportunity to boost the regional economy. The world angling record for taimen – a rare species of freshwater trout – was caught and released on the Tugur.
But conservation and fishing interests have been fighting new logging concessions and placer gold mining operations in recent years.
Guido Rahr, President and CEO of the WSC, first visited the region in 2014 and found a system that supported a level of bio productivity largely lost in the Pacific Northwest.
“There are not too many places like this on earth,” he said. “These rivers are capable of growing salmonids that surpass 100 pounds and they support amazing wildlife.
“Salmon conservation in the Russian Far East is an inflection point. These river are not yet degraded by development, but without protection they will be. And the opportunities to secure them at this scale will only grow more scarce.”
Alexander Kulikov, founder of the Khabarovsk Wildlife Foundation, helped develop the plan for protecting Russian salmon strongholds and shepherd the latest proposals through the approval process.
“This is the most significant conservation achievement of our organisation and our partners within the last eight years,” he said. ”It is the result of many years of effort by a team supported by the WSC.”
The new legal status, imposed by the government of Khabarovsky-Krai, follows earlier successes by the WSC’s Russian partners, including the Russian Academy of Sciences and regional fisheries agencies. These include the protection of the Kol River in Kamchatka, the Vengeri and Pursh-Pursh Rivers on Sakhalin Island and the establishment of the Shantar Islands National Park in Khabarovsk.