Vostochny wild salmon refuge: conservation of biodiversity, Sakhalin Island, Russia

Sakhalin Island, a Russian territory to the north of Japan, is one of the last places in the world where pristine coniferous forests maintain river and basin conditions for wild salmon spawning. During the last century, industrialization has led to the systematic destruction of the island through concentrated clear-cutting, poaching and unlimited industrial fishing. 9% of Sakhalin Island is protected on paper, but in practice, whilst most of these areas have strict protection from use by local people, nearly all are commercially logged and fished. Despite this, the Pursh-Pursh and Vengeri Rivers which flow into the Sea of Okhotsk frame 65,000 hectares of ancient forest untouched by human activity. Known as Vostochny refuge, these rivers provide spawning grounds for five species of wild Pacific salmon, including pink, chum, cherry, coho and endangered Sakhalin taimen.

The territory is extremely productive with annual runs of over 4 million fish providing food for brown bear and Steller’s sea eagles, as well as important wetland habitat for waterfowl. This last natural and untouched part of the island is critical for the salmon ecosystem, but commercial fishing and logging industries seek to establish permits to deforest and fish the refuge. Well-organized teams of poachers sponsored by a fishing mafia set up poaching stations at remote locations on the river banks each year. It is feared that exploitation of Sakahlin’s last untouched area will have a detrimental impact on both wildlife and local communities.

Local environmentalist Dmitry Lisitsyn, is leader of ‘Sakhalin Environment Watch’, a local NGO established in 1995 to protect Sakhalin’s natural environment. With strong local support, Dmitry and his team have led a 9 year program of protection at Vostochny refuge, patrolling against poachers and illegal loggers. Through the efforts of SEW and other local NGOS, Vostochny achieved protected area status in 1999, but in 2004 the commercial fishing company ‘Laguna’ succeeded in overturning this status by exploiting a legal loophole. Laguna is now applying for commercial fishing rights to the reserve, presenting a new threat to both wildlife and the islands’ inhabitants. Dmitry is working to create an effective system of wild salmon protection by redesignating Vostochny as a reserve with full stakeholder consultation. He aims to create an area where sustainable use by local people will be allowed, with strict prohibition of any commercial use of natural resources.

SAKHALIN GOVERNOR SIGNS DECREE TO CREATE VOSTOCHNY WILDLIFE REFUGE

August 14th 2007

Sakhalin Governor Alexander Khoroshavin signed a decree on August 14 to create Vostochniy Wildlife Refuge in the Smirnyikh district. As a result of the decree, commercial activity including hunting, logging and fishing will be banned in the area. SEW has led environmentalists in the region in opposing plans by commercial enterprises to log timber in the area. The Vostochniy Reserve, through which the Pursh-Pursh and Vengeri rivers flow, contains 170,000 acres of ancient forest unimpacted by human activity or forest fires.

PACIFIC ENVIRONMENT AND SEW WIN AWARD AT BENNY AWARDS

October 5th 2006

NGOs SEW and Pacific Environment have been recognised at the BENNY (Business Ethics Network) Awards for ‘outstanding contributions to corporate ethics’ for the Sakhalin II Campaign. They received a $10,000 prize to help support their further efforts in this area.

Full winners list