Wednesday, August 13, 2014

13/08/2014: Protecting Asia's giant salmon - one river at a time
A Siberian taimen captured by an angler in the Russian Far East. The populations there are renowned for feeding, and growing large, on abundant Pacific salmon. Photograph by Misha Skopets, courtesy of Wild Salmon Center
Big news about a big fish this week, in a forgotten corner of the world.  Our Russian conservation partner, Khabarovsk Wildlife Foundation, announced the creation of a new freshwater protected area (PA) in the Russian Far East, the Tugursky Nature Reserve (see Wild Salmon Center press release here).

This large river system, located in a remote corner of Russia and flowing into the Sea of Okhotsk in the North Pacific, is home to the largest member of the salmon and trout family, the Siberian taimen (Hucho taimen).  Yes, that is right – bigger than the much revered king salmon!  Much bigger.

The largest recorded specimen tipped the scales at 105 kg (231 pounds), and over 2 m (nearly 7 feet) in length!  They can live to be at least 30 years old.  The PA amounts to 80,000 acres (~32,000 hectares), and includes critical riparian and undeveloped floodplain habitat.  Needless to say, a huge conservation win.

In the grand scheme of human development on Earth, lower river riparian and floodplain habitat are the first to be lost (think productive farmland, ship ports, etc.).

A quick Google Earth flyover of any major river system in the United States will easily convince you that we’ve lost a huge amount of this type of river habitat, which is critical to the well-being of freshwater life, including salmon.  I find myself lamenting this loss of habitat every time I cross a large bridge or fly over our coastline near my home in the US Pacific Northwest.

Thanks to trends involving geopolitics, however, many of the great salmon rivers in the Russian Far East are still relatively pristine, with a very light human footprint.  My organization, the Wild Salmon Center, has been working actively with Russian partners since the 1990s to help permanently protect this natural legacy.

Read more HERE.

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