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Премия рунета 2017

Sea and fish

Salmon is a huge family of fish that live in the northern and temperate latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. Kamchatka is the habitat of all six species of Pacific salmon: chinook salmon, coho salmon, chum salmon, sockeye salmon, humpback salmon and masu salmon. Here, in addition to other representatives of the salmon family, the rainbow trout lives. Its migratory form is listed in the Red Book of the Russian Federation, and residential in the Red Book of Kamchatka and the north of the Far East. By the way, salmons are divided by the migratory and residential forms according to their way of life: one and the same species can spend all of its life in the river or lake without leaving the fresh water basin, in which case the form is called residential. As a rule, from the migratory it is distinguished by smaller sizes and sometimes by changes in color.

However, most of salmons take a many kilometers journey at least twice in their life. In this case, the most difficult for salmons is the return journey to its birth place. The «homing» of salmon, that is, their ability to return to their birthplace after several years of life in the ocean, is a surprising and mysterious phenomenon, but salmon find the way home faultlessly, returning to the rivers of Kamchatka every year. On their way to their native backwater, salmons jump over steep river rapids with a height of more than a meter; they crawl on their belly over the shallows and, as is typical for representatives of the Pacific salmon, change their appearance beyond recognition. Unlike their counterparts, Atlantic salmons and rainbow trout, Pacific salmon spawn only once in a lifetime, perishing after giving life to a new generation. This feature of the life cycle remains not fully explained to this day. It is generally believed that in this way, adult individuals sacrifice themselves to future generations, ensuring the development of insects, which subsequently become the food base for hatchlings. At the same time, various species of Pacific salmon have adapted to different parts of water bodies: some prefer shady quiet backwater, some is looking for a stony bottom, some arrange nests in the bends of rivers, and others get to lakes from which parental rivers take source.

© Yuriy Kislyak / WWF Russia
© Sergey Rafanov / WWF Russia
© Yuriy Kislyak / WWF Russia
© Yuriy Kislyak / WWF Russia

Today, the main threat to salmon in Kamchatka is poaching. Systematic overfishing associated with the illegal fishing of these species has already led to a situation where once salmon-rich rivers of the peninsula are now almost lifeless. Threats to salmon ecosystems are also due to the development of mining industry, and other human activities that cause pollution of rivers and lakes. These fish are very sensitive to the chemical composition of water in a basin, and even its slight change, which on the first sight does not play a big role, can indirectly have serious negative impact on the state of salmon populations. Plans for oil and gas production in the West Kamchatka shelf are also not encouraging for salmons, as the search are for «black gold» in the Sea of Okhotsk largely coincides with the salmon feeding areas.

Salmon requires human help to survive in such conditions. People are used to treating fish as a renewable resource, increasing the yield capacity. However, Russian and foreign experience serves as a clear confirmation of how a rapidly renewable resource can run out due to thoughtless and barbarous exploitation. A careful attitude to renewable resources and a strictly scientific approach to catches should ensure an optimal level spawning grounds’ loading, since too many breeders can also have negative effect on a population as their shortage. When implementing projects in the mining and oil and gas spheres, it is necessary to be primarily guided by long-term prospects: the revenues from the realization of such projects by historical standards are short-lived — 20–30 years — and distributed among a handful of people, while salmon is sometimes the main source of food for local populations for many hundreds of years.

WWF pays special attention to the prevention poaching both on the high seas and in rivers. With the support of WWF, the «Save the Salmon Together!» coalition has been created, which included representatives of fishing industry, the Association of Indigenous Minorities of the North, and other non-governmental organizations. The coalition is working to protect salmon habitats and prevent poaching.

WWF promotes wild salmon products on domestic and international markets, contrasting wild and artificially grown salmon, focusing on the problems of salmon hatcheries. One of the measures leading to the successful promotion of Kamchatka salmon (and products from it) in the world market is the ecological certification of fisheries according to the standards of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). WWF is leading a model project for the certification of fishing companies in Kamchatka and is developing programs that give fish business representatives the opportunity to fish without undue exploitation of reserves.

In 2012, on the Ozernaya River, two sockeye salmon fisheries have been certified according to MSC standards. In 2013, two more companies expressed a desire to conduct a verification procedure in their fields to obtain a certificate. In 2016, fisheries were certified in the basins of six Kamchatka Rivers.

WWF considers it necessary to preserve the key habitats of Pacific salmon in the context of growing progress of shelf development for oil, gas and other mineral resources extraction. Therefore we are striving to identify priority marine salmon habitats to create marine protected areas.