National Geographic : 2009 Aug
• won t survive." So far the bureaucrats have refused to grant commercial-scale quotas to Zaporotsky s local group or any other. of the Paci c, the wild salmon runs of North America (south of Alas- ka), once great, have been devastated---and in some cases obliterated---by dambuilding, dewa- tering for irrigation, overfishing, agricultural pollution, and other forms of habitat degrada- tion, and they ve been genetically diminished by reliance on hatcheries. e people of Kamchatka have a chance to be wise and provident where Americans and Canadians have been stupid and careless. For Kamchatka to become the world s foremost wild salmon refuge, the runs in its riv- ers don t need to be restored; they need only to be protected from poaching, overcatching, oil and gas spills, disruptive and poisonous mining, and other forms of shortsighted mistake. e region could also become one of the richest export producers of fresh salmon, frozen salmon, and caviar. ose two prospects aren t incompatible; they re interlocked. This is why the Wild Fishes and Biodiver- sity Foundation (WFBF), of Kamchatka, and its American partner, the Wild Salmon Cen- ter (WSC), supplied help and encouragement when the Kamchatka government created the Kol-Kekhta Regional Experimental Salmon Reserve, and why they support current e orts toward designating another protected area for salmon, on the Utkholok River up north. WFBF and WSC have also backed an ambi- tious vision of adding ve more such protected areas---on the Oblukovina, Krutogorova, Kol- pakova, and Opala Rivers (all draining to the west coast), and the Zhupanova River (draining east), each to encompass not just the river itself but its full drainage basin, including the head- water streams in which the salmon spawn and all the terrestrial habitat. ose ve areas, together with the Kol and the Utkholok, would make Kamchatka the planet s greatest, boldest experiment in nurturing wild salmon species for their own sakes and for the measured use of humankind. And it could actually happen---if long-term management perspectives informed by scienti c research, along with honest gover- nance backed by strict enforcement, are allowed to triumph over the scramble for short-term gain by insiders. Of course, some people prefer the old way, whether that represents Soviet-flavored en- terprises (the V. I. Lenin Fishing Collective still operates from a large building near the Petropavlovsk waterfront) or heedless private resource extraction in the spirit of Standard Oil, Anaconda (copper), and Peabody (coal). His- tory and human need lie heavily on Kamchatka. A huge bronze statue of Lenin himself, thick- limbed and implacable, still stands in the plaza outside the main government o ces. Moscow still sets the course. People without jobs still need to eat, and sh are there for the taking. It s a long journey from idealistic plans to concrete, well-enforced protections, just as it s a long journey from the deep Paci c to the gravelly shallows of the Bystraya River. I can t forget what Ludmila Sakharovskaya said as we stood streamside at the Malki hatchery. Twenty- five years of hatching and nurturing fish, releasing them, seeing ever fewer return, had made her cynical. She was tired too, eager to take her pension and go to Irkutsk. Yes, we have reforms now, she said---or anyway, there s talk of reforms. But that s just talk, just formalities. Poaching is easy to do and hard to prevent. She knows of whole settlements, in the mountains, lled with people who could seek a legal job but don t, who live out the winter waiting for sum- mer, when they can poach salmon. Were things better during the Soviet era? She considers that for a second or two, and answers carefully: "Better for sh." j THE PHRASE "KAMCHATKA SALMON" COULD REPRESENT THE GREATEST SUCCESS STORY IN FISHERIES MANAGEMENTOR MEMORIALIZE A SQUANDERED OPPORTUNITY.