National Geographic : 2009 Aug
percent of all wild Paci c salmon go to spawn. Although larger than California, the pen- insula has less than 200 miles of paved roads. e capital is Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, on the southeastern coast, containing half the total population. Across a nicely protective bay sits the Rybachiy Nuclear Submarine Base, Russia s largest, in support of which the city grew dur- ing Soviet times, when the entire peninsula was a closed military region. Travel to most other parts of Kamchatka is still di cult for anyone who doesn t have access to an Mi-8 helicop- ter. But there is a modest network of gravel roads, and one of those winds upstream along a narrow waterway called the Bystraya River, amid the southern Central Range, to the Malki salmon hatchery, a complex of low buildings surrounded by trees. Hatchery operations began in Kamchatka in 1914, during the twilight of the tsars, but this facility was established just three decades ago. In a lounge room o the entryway, someone hung a poster, declaring in Russian: "Kamchatka was created by nature as if for the very reproduction of salmon." at sounds almost like a myth of origins, but the poster listed some nonmythic contributing factors: Permafrost is largely absent, rain is abundant, drainage is good and steady, and because of Kamchatka s isolation from mainland river systems, its streams are relatively depauperate of other freshwater sh, leaving Oncorhynchus species to face few com- petitors and predators. e poster was right. Judged on physical and ecological grounds, it s salmon heaven. Unfortunately, those aren t the only factors that apply. Kamchatka s tottering post-Soviet economy, sheries-management decisions (and the politics behind them), and how those deci- sions are enforced will determine the fate of Kamchatka s salmon runs, driving them toward a future that lies somewhere between two extremes. Within a relatively short time, may- be ten years or twenty, the phrase "Kamchatka Wares for far eastern Russia---like flashy Chinese-made shoes worn by a bridesmaid in the port of Petropavlovsk---arrive chiefly by sea. Outbound ships from Kamchatka carry tons of frozen salmon, bound primarily for China, Japan, and South Korea.