National Geographic : 2009 Aug
• Stanford: What allows all this herby growth to spring up here, within such a short growing season, every year? "In a word," he said, "salmon." a human ecosystem too. Near the mouth of the Bolshaya in a town called Ust-Bolsheretsk, a local o cial, Sergei Pasmurov, received me in a sparsely furnished o ce behind leather-padded doors. Beneath a photo of Vlad- imir Putin glowering down from behind a fern, Pasmurov o ered a candid sketch of local his- tory, which had been di cult recently. roughout the Soviet era, Ust-Bolsheretsk was a sizable agricultural center, a base for several large state farms that kept dairy cattle and grew turnips, tomatoes, and other veg- etables in hothouses. Fishing was important also, with two sh-processing plants operating here. Population stood at about 15,000 for the district, including Ukrainians, Belorussians, Irkutsk Siberians---people from all over the U.S.S.R.---as well as indigenous Kamchatkans of the Itelmen ethnic group. en, so abruptly, so harshly, came the end of the Soviet Union, without which those government-supported agricultural collectives failed. Suddenly there was an unfamiliar phenomenon, unemploy- ment, and the population fell markedly. Dairy production dropped; vegetables became scarce. Pasmurov described the whole cascade of changes concisely and bundled them into one freighted word---razvalilsya---that my translator rendered as "the ruining." Fishing became, for lack of alternatives, the major economic activity of the district. Fishing is seasonal, also cyclical, with up- and-down uctuations from year to year. Even during a good year the river can t support every- one. Nonetheless, about 20 di erent companies David Quammen wrote about Kamchatka s wilder- ness in the January issue. Photojournalist Randy Olson covered the global sheries crisis in April 2007. Sergei Shurunov, head of a crack antipoaching team, muscles up with homemade weights at his camp in South Kamchatka Reserve. Aided by the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), his unit has nearly halted illegal fishing that was once rampant here.