WWF in the Murmansk region will help to create brigades of public inspectors who will protect Atlantic salmon from poachers. Experts will rely on successful experience of their colleagues from Kamchatka.
The pilot project was launched on the Varzuga River, which until recently was inhabited by the largest salmon population in Europe.
However, experts now call the state of the river depressing: according to scientists’ estimates, since 2007 the number of the Varzuga population has become many times smaller, and this process continues. There are many reasons for this, but the main blow was caused by poaching, which is largely due to the development of rafting tourism. The capability of the state fish protection is not sufficient – the staffing and financing of the inspectors is not enough to make all the sludge rivers of the Murmansk region secure.
The World Wildlife Fund is going to strengthen the work of the state fisheries protection by creating an institute of public inspectors. As told by the press service of WWF Russia, a group of local residents has already been selected and trained. Together with state inspectors and representatives of law enforcement agencies, they will patrol Varzuga all year: both in the summer and autumn period, when fusion tourism is carried out, and in winter when poachers on snowmobiles reach wintering pits. The main partner on this initiative will be the newly created fund “Murmansk salmon”.
“In order for the system to work, it is necessary to have a permanent presence of environmental services on the river and carry out explanatory, informational work,” says Valery Irkashev, the fund’s chairman. “It is very important to attract local residents, it will not only give them work, but also an understanding that they are preserving their nature’s wealth and participating in the management of their own resources.”
WWF Russia has already had successful experiences in creating public teams in Kamchatka. The fund said that in five years specialists have managed to unite efforts of the local population and ecologists, to attract financing for the fishermen and to strike a devastating blow to poaching in the Bolshaya river basin. After many years of reduction, for the first time scientists recorded an increase in the number of spawning individuals of valuable salmon species.
“We went to Kamchatka, held many meetings, thoroughly studied the experience of our colleagues and made sure that environmental funds with the support of local residents could impact the situation with poaching hugely and create an effective system for protecting salmon rivers, become initiators and drivers of this process,” said the coordinator program on sustainable fisheries of the Barents Branch Alexei Golenkevich. He stressed that the World Wildlife Fund can only initiate and start the process in the Murmansk region, but its future and funding should be looked after by commercial structures – users of this valuable resource.
However, even now the emerging system of public control is proving its effectiveness, notes the fund. Two fish-raids were conducted within the regional “Varzugsky” reserve with the support of WWF Russia in summer and autumn of this year. The inspectors reported 18 administrative violations, seized 3 boats and 18 items of illegal fishing gear, conducted 10 interviews on compliance with fishing rules and conservation regime.