Kirill Kuzischin, Elizabeth Arnold
Fishing trip conversations and sounds.
Kirill Kuzischin, Elizabeth Arnold
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
29 Sep 2002
- Kamchatka Peninsula
- 56.47139 159.42993
Decoded MS stereo
Log of DAT #: 2
Engineer: Michael Schweppe
Date: Sept. 29, 2002
Michael talking, starting off tape, they're going fishing
It's easy to go, don't be in the water, stay on the ground, stay on the gravel. It's not _____(inaudible).
It's very deep right there.
It's not very deep. No it's because steppy (?) and it's rocks lying in the river here and behind the rocks is the stable area where the current is cycling and still would like to lay behind the rocks.
Talking about wading shoes
Sound of motorboat
More boat sounds
You see those small green trees? That's an elfin pine or cedar. It's actually a pine tree and it produces large cones that have very large seeds and the bears and people really like to eat those.
Everybody, sables, foxes
Everything eats them
That's the salmon feeding on the thermograph. On the algae on the thermograph.
So it basically takes one temperature reading a day at the same time.
No one every hour a day.
One every hour a day.
Per day for a year
So this morning on that one we have over 7,000 readings.
On the boat, moving things around
So, now let's check for steelhead, so maybe let's put Nick on the other side and he will try to fish this water from the right river bank. And where from this little gravel bar now it is submerged but this little willow tree is showing that at the _______________ it exists.
It's a good run for steelhead coming up Sopochnaya. What do we have up there a hawk?
I was trying to figure that out
So, let's try to catch something.
Cranking up boat
The only thing that confused me is that the thermograph showed negative temperature.
Load sound of motorboat
Boat shuts off, loud splashing sound
Right there, start right there.
Load splashing sound
MS switches to spaced omnis
Splashing sounds in the water
Russian talking about extracting flies from someone's head.
Splashing sounds in water
MS talking about equipment
EA and MS are talking about how weird it is to ¿fish for science¿
General ambience of water and boat
Extremely loud sound of motor
Walking on gravel
EA asks Kirill to talk to her
First of all tell me what were you just doing.
We are making research and conservation on the steelhead river of western Kamchatka. Sopochnaya is a typical western Kamchatka river, which has the whole biodiversity of salmons. Its known 9 species of salmon fishes and which live in this river and uh, the real diamond in the crown is steelhead because steelhead are rare and endangered fishes in Russia. It's listed into the red data book, it's the same as the list of endangered species in the United States and uh steelhead is an excellent indicator which shows for us the health of the whole ecosystem, in other words, if we have the whole diversity, ____ diversity of steelhead in this river, it means that the ecosystem is in well shape, and if we will see that steelhead diversity is reducing the population structure is changing it means that it's time to ring the bell and come here all together and make conservation efforts on the whole river system, on the whole watershed. And so now we are sampling this excellent fish with a catch and release method. When the angles are catching fish and taking the data, we're taking scales, we're taking measurements from fish, length and girth, and uh, we're taking little fin clip, we're making little cutting of o fin. And so scales will provide us information about _____, either this fish typically a sierran fish that goes far in the ocean or it stays for example in the estuary or this fish is rivering, the whole life cycle of this fish can realize only the fresh waters. So, fin clip will provide for us DNA sample because we are extracting DNA from the cells that we are extracting from this little fin clip and it will show for us genetic diversity over the stock, within the stock and we can compare the genetic structure of this steelhead which inhabits this river with the other rivers of Kamchatka with north America, so we can understand the relationships between these two separated areas by the pacific ocean. Here now we're staying at the backwaters this is the place where the whole diversity begins so the basis of the fish of the salmon stocks which lives here because the backwaters is the heaven for juveniles so the salmon, so backwaters we can find all species of salmon who lives in the river. It's the best place where they can feed on little invertebrates and it's good holding water it's not very swifty, and in this little backwater channels the juveniles grow up to the time where they should got to the sea for filling. After which they come back as big adults.
Let's back up and tell me a little bit about yourself. First of all what is your full name?
My name is Kirill Kuzischin. I'm an associate professor of Moscow State University ichthyology department, biology department, and I'm making my research on salmon and fishes for many years. I made my PHD book on Atlantic salmon and brown trout, from the European part of Russia in the Bering Sea and White Sea, and now I'm working on this excellent project, international project of wild salmon center and Moscow state university. So uh in summertime in June until October I'm in the field. I'm making all samples here but in the wintertime and early spring I am teaching students and I'm making my laboratory work.
Oh. Where are you from?
Oh from Moscow, and how did you get connected with the wild salmon center.
It's a long story and maybe it's a little bit active story because all this activity began long ago in 93 when retired captain of US Navy Pete Soverel who uh devoted and dedicated fly fisherman, who fish for steelhead everywhere realize that steelhead not only occurs in north America but in Russia too on Kamchatka and he decided why don't we pay attention to this part of the world if we are fishing for steelhead everywhere. Fortunately the cold war was over and it was rather easy to make this thing so he came to Moscow and he found the scientists from our department because it's amazing but nobody from the local research institutes paid attention to the steelhead because it's not a commercial species. The local institutes are focused on commercial species like sakai, pink salmon, ___ salmon and so on, and noncommercial species as for example steelhead, chars white, wooded char, dolly varden are out of interest of locals and so we are in the university are making our research on such kinds of species not because they are noncommercial but because they are very diverse, and so its very good model to show our students for better education. So we are making our evolutionary research, morphology research on this species and then we can show the results of our research to the new generations of fish biologists which are growing up in our university. So, Moscow University was the only organization in the whole Russia that has any data on steelhead. So we began this research in 1965, long ago, and so we found one another and we decided to conduct the first expedition which is based on the sponsorship of the American anglers because of financial problems we have no enough funding to make this monitoring work on steelhead and so it was a combination of American sponsors and Russian scientist but Americans were not only sponsors they became participants over the scientific expedition because they are by their own efforts sampling material for science. Each sponsors after he landed the fish made all these measurements under the supervision of the scientists and so sponsor became not the angler. He became scientific angler who were gathering material for science and on this basis this activity developed since 93 and now we began in 94 with one little camp modest camp on one river and now we are working on more than ten rivers throughout the peninsula and our activities not only studying the steelhead, we begin grating the protected areas for the whole watershed for the conservation of the whole biodiversity that we have in the rivers. Having the steelhead as in the focus of the research and now since '99 the flathead lake biological station of the University of Montana became the partner of the project and we are now making giant efforts. Scientists from Montana, I'm sure they will tell you what they are doing more briefly. They are making the things that we aren't doing. We are focused on fish, they are focused on river geomorphology and food webs, vertebrates that are a food resource for juveniles. So now we are covering the whole river ecosystem.
That's a good fit, the sponsorship and the science.
It's a good working model and it's deciding not only scientific problems or conservation problems, it's also deciding local problems with unemployment for example with investment into the local economy because in the camps where our expedition work local staff are working and they are paid for their work and they begin living better and so it's also creating an acceptable climate for investment into the local economy and to build infrastructure of the ecotourism based on fishing for example, and it has a good future so it's a much wide circle of things that are involved in this project. We began from rather restricted area and we are spreading out.
What would you say, is the Russian government committed to conservation?
Yes there are other things that the Russian government has so many other vital problems like salary for budget workers to decide energy problems for example here and so conservation is not the first deal for government and for local governments too. That's why this niche is filled by public organizations and they are doing successfully and local government and federal government support this project.
I would think that what the Wild Salmon Center is doing and what you're' doing makes the case to the government though that conservation...
It's good example for the government on how things can be done.
Why do you care what happens to the steelhead?
It's very interesting.
Why is it important to you?
Well, it's my job because I am a teacher at the university, and when I'm making research so I can give more and more to my students. I have in my mind, to prepare new and new generations of fish biologists with a conservation minded with a changed mentality from taking as much harvest as possible from the stock to the sustainable using of the natural resources and this is a very good example of what I can give to my students. And so I think it's very important that I professors be involved into the research world. It's the basic point for our university and it's the main policy of our university. If you are teaching students, you must make science and steelhead is a very good object for making this advanced research.
Do you think you approach, the Russians approach science differently than the American scientists.
Well yes and no. Yes because we are working at the same level. We have substantial exchange by scientific literature, and in Russia we are confident in what's going on worldwide science. Why different? Maybe it's a different approach to the education. We in Russia still have so called classic German type of education when we are giving for students very broad bases. On our biology department we are not only giving for student biology but we're also giving them chemistry, physics, different disciplines and if we are only preparing fish biologists it doesn't mean that we are teaching them only fishes. Also molecular biology, biophysics, biochemistry. And our students can work in neighboring fields so they can use in their fish research advantages of the different methods that they are using in neighboring discipline. While as I know in the United States, the policy is to prepare well-educated person but in the narrow fields. (EA: very specific). To make them more specific. So it's difference. Both systems I'm sure has its advantages and disadvantages. But it doesn't mean that we are speaking on different languages. We are understanding one another well and we are making joint efforts successfully. We can do it easily and it's what we are doing now.
What are we doing right her on this river. What do you want to know about this river?
It's a good river where we can monitor, make monitoring of the steelhead stock. We know that years ago their population structure was at one level and because of many reasons most of them poachers, their stock abundance decreased and the population structure is changed and having all these samples we can understand why it is staying at one level or its differing or its going to the level that it was before because when we are working we are protecting the stock and because there is no poachers when we are here poachers are afraid to catch fish to extract it from the environment when the international expedition is working and uh so we can watch the changing that's taking place in the stock. Either it's going into the good shape or its going worse and worse.
Is poaching the biggest threat?
For steelhead on western Kamchatka it's the biggest threat because there is not enough anthropogenic transformation of the environment you see here is not agriculture, no infrastructure building no roads, no whatever, no factories no plants, nothing. It's pristine places you see it it's how it was thousand years ago. The only big problem is over ____, and mainly by the poachers as we are talking about steelhead for salmon stocks it is bad management of the stocks and over___ is the main problem.
When you were just saying going back thousands of years when the Americans say this is like going back in time, do you understand that?
Yes, a glimpse into the past of North America
Well how do you feel about that. We've wrecked ours over there and now we're coming over here and saying you guys shouldn't wreck yours.
Yes we are understanding one another. One of the biggest problems that we have is to change the mentality of the people. Most part of the population here is poor people and first of all what they are thinking about is to increase their living level. And that's why this poaching taking place. The people want to get more money to cover their bills, to educate their children to improve their living conditions and so on and so conservation efforts must go not alone but in connection with the deciding of many other problems social economic problems and so on. Nowadays protected areas is the most effective ways because it's not easy to decide all these problems at once. And so we are making investment into the future and creating this protected areas , it means that this watershed will stay pristine forever and after the economic changes will take place. People will have this healthy salmon stocks.
To bad we can't take all the people from here, bring them to America and show them how we've wrecked our rivers...
Unfortunately they will only see cars and houses, but not ruined environments.
Is it a hard fight for you to convince people that conservation is important because of the economic considerations.
Yes, it's not easy task. We are telling them don't touch the fish, it will be done if you come on with your poaching. But, the people who are making this said well where can we get our job. This is the only way how we can support ourselves and our families, so what will be the argument of us. It's not very easy, but you see what I definitely watched is the changing mentality of people who are working and worked in our camps, because most of them in the former times were poachers. Definitely, it's for sure. And now when they are involved in this problem when they are working as a guides, as a staff in the camps, and when they are watching the good management of resources and conservation of resources is economically beneficial they stop poaching and moreover they begin protecting their own resources. They understood that it's much more profitable for them to conserve the fish stocks that lives here. And if in the former times they took steelhead how many...up to some metric tons for example, before. Now they are not doing and they do not allow anybody else to do it. and so it's a very few group of people, maybe it's 50-100 people but it's the beginning. But what we will have in future if we spread out this ecotourism activity on more rivers than ten, so it means one thousand people will be involved and one-two-three thousands more will be involved in this infrastructure like hotels helicopter lines and so on. And so it's a slow process but it's ongoing process and it's very important to support it.
And you've really seen that happen. People have made the change.
Yes, I saw the changes, definitely I saw. Unfortunately, it's not so wide as we want but we are still making efforts for it to be possible.
You said earlier today that on one river, the camp, you knew that the poaching was widespread and then you established the camp there and it really changed dramatically.
It's uh...at least four rivers here. On four rivers poaching was stopped. Not eliminated at all, because after the expedition came from the field and our activity was stopped, poachers are trying to get some fish. But the most hard period for steelhead is cowered by our efforts, but it's a substantial protection for steelhead stocks. The level of poaching decreased a lot.
What's your hope, your biggest hope for this project?
That it will last forever.
And do you think it's working?
It's working now, yes definitely. The activity became more various and it's good.
It's getting and broader...
It's getting bigger and bigger. It's not only science it's social conservation, scientific aspects, what else...education, and maybe what's more...This year the wild salmon center begun the teaching activities for guides, for local guides and in some places Russian guides begin working, because in the previously years mostly American guides worked with sponsors. It's logical, it's obvious because guides must have specific skills in fishing operations. They must know English language. They must know how to fish with a fly rod and so this period is over and now Russian people begin learning their language. They know how to fish, they know how to read the river, they know how to make a schedule for anglers, how to split up the pieces of the river and so on. And so this is the new kind of activity.
Why did you go into the study of fish in the first place?
It's a good question and I'm not able to answer this question because I um from my early childhood I like fish and I like to fish. I caught my first fish when I was four, and I remember, this event in my life. And I think in my family I was the only who liked to fish. All other in my family are humanitarians, and I'm only field scientist.
What kind of fish was it?
It's a minnow. It's in the European part of Russia. It's different than on Kamchatka, little one.
But you were the only fisherman in your family. (Yes) And then that turned into a whole career? (Yes) What's the most surprising thing you've discovered through this project on these rivers?
That's it's working. That it's stand during these year. You know many projects are short, two, three years and it's over. Our project is going on 9 years and it was several times when w3e had critical periods but we survived and we are still working. I think it's the longest project, conservation and scientific project, international project, in the whole Russia. All other are not so long term.
Really. And you said at one point there was a change in the government and they started cracking down because they said some of these were disguised for sport fishing and they weren't really doing science. (No because we are doing science). No but the other ones.
Maybe. I'm not very much confident in the other people. I can say definitely about our project, yes. It's the most amazing thing. It's the most surprising thing. We are working and we have now...we are looking forward to future work. We have very good basis.
So the most surprising thing isn't something you've discovered on the river but it's that this has been so successful.
Yes because what we are discovering on the river what kind of openings, we are doing of course it's great and I can speak hours and hours on this matter and it will be endless. Don't allow scientists to speak about the object of what he's studying.
But the fact that this keeps going is the most surprising thing.
It's the most surprising thing, but now I have more and more hope that it will be not very much surprising.
So Jack was saying that you'd like to come out here in the winter and look under the ice and see what's going on.
Maybe one day we will go here and we will look at the hibernating pools of fish, which stay in winter.
It seems like it's so huge to be able to study it you can only get a small piece of it., it's so hard to get a handle on it.
We still have very limited knowledge on the subject on the subject, the object of what we are studying. Yes it is. But from the other hand it's great, because we will know everything what to do.
All right, you know what, I hope that through this week I can talk to you some more.
Sure to my pleasure.
Michael talking about ambience.
Ambi: Sounds of water
Loud splashing sounds, rambling about in the boat
MS and EA talking with Krill about catching a steelhead
Tell me about your history with this project.
My history begins with the guy to your right there. Nick. Nick introduced me to Pete Savorow, and Savarow and Kapovich are the founders of all this stuff so I met with Pete in Seattle and we talked shop. He invited me and Nick to go to, how did we do it Nick? We had a grant didn't we?
Originally when you and I met on the Yakamah...
MS gets a chair
When I first met you in the field on the Yakama on tour with the bureau, the subject somehow of Kamchatka and a reference to a recent article you had read. So I mentioned my knowledge of the project and acquaintance with Pete and so we clearly found a mutual interest there in the possibilities, the lessons and the research opportunities of Kamchatka and then with Guido's help...well for a couple of years I tried writing grants to get funding for Jack and I to come over and with Guido's help in early 1999 we secured the travel money from the trust for mutual understanding in New York and uh then it was ok, now we've got the money, Jack here's Pete
Yeah we went to Seattle to meet with Pete but I remember the motivation now, I'd gotten wind of Probstel's analysis of genetic samples from Kamchatka and the word was that there were multiple populations of everything the in the same river and it hasn't turned out to be exactly the story that I had heard but uh it was a good one and one that I wanted to look into, and that led us to Pete and uh since then we have continued to apply annually to the trust for mutual understanding and um they have been very good to us, funded us every year and very excited about what we've done. That foundation really focuses on Russian-American relationships and obviously this is a success story. So, they've really like what we've done over the years.
MS moves around
I think one of the other things from my point of view which is just sort of FYI was one of the reasons that I as mentioned one of our board members with Washington Trap, Bill McMillan, had been in the steelhead camps in '95 and '96 and was with them when they found that cutthroat looking rainbow as it turned out. But we were, knowing Pete and knowing the project the focus was original research with anglers on steelhead and there was a concern or desire on our part that it not become a monospecies, let's learn all we can about steelhead. The opportunity to integrate that with the larger river ecology seemed critical for long term success to me so and all the folks that connect with Kamchatka steelhead project were quite receptive but that was sort of my personal motivation for working to involve Jack in the project initially.
Yeah I'm very much an ecosystem scientist and that's the way I approached Pete. I said I like to fish and I'm interested in the fish side of things but I want to know how they fit into the landscape, and he was enthusiastic about that.
What to you is the heart of this project?
Well, the heart of the project is without question Kamchatka steelhead project. That's been the primary motivation for bringing people here to fish and linking fishing with science and that's the charge that Moscow state university has. That's the heart of it. I don't think we could argue otherwise. From a human standpoint that's the heart of it. If you're talking about the heart of the ecosystem that's a different story.
What is the heart of it for you?
Well the river is the heart, rivers are the heart of every terrestrial ecosystem because they drain the landscape and it's a continuum of water features from the oceans to the very tops of the mountains, and the features of the water change as it goes down stream but the veins, if you will, of the circulation system of the continent, so the heart is the river and the soul might be, if you want to look at it that way, the way in which the river is linked to the landscape. In the volcanic areas of Kamchatka its linked very dynamically, or very constantly really, to the reservoirs of water that are contained in the lava flows. It comes in a very constant pattern into the river. These are as you are experiencing here are much more dynamic and subject to surface run off so the way in which the water picks up and describes the landscape would be the soul and the river's the heart.
I don't want to put this too crudely but from what I understand you're looking at is everything here and how it's linked. Yeah, as we presented it to the foundations that we're trying to get to support this project big time we believe that the river and the marine nutrients that come into it control the landscape diversity, biodiversity for the whole regions you simply wouldn't have the same system at all if you didn't have the type of river number one and number two the runs of salmon coming in every year. So you know...
What's so special about this place?
Well the special thing about Kamchatka is first the rivers are in marvelous shape and they have these tremendous runs of salmon, but I think to me what is special about Kamchatka is that we're at 55 degrees latitude and we have these gigantic floodplains with these gigantic gallery forests. To be honest when I came here, I was stunned by that. Nick and I just stood and looked at these big trees and said this can't be. What's going on here, b/c we were prepared for this kind of thing, lots of willows and wind blown gravel bars and frozen for seven months out of the year but what we saw on Poo-to-goro were cottonwood trees that were a meter in diameter. And we've come to realize that's because the very big floodplains have huge amounts of water stored in the gravel of the floodplains and that provides a great deal of basically of winter warming and summer cooling so these trees can grow so fast and on top of that is the marine subsidy probably of the nutrients coming in, that's one of research topics. In contrast to probably most people who've been over here I've been most impressed by the huge floodplains and the tremendous wide gallery forests that exist everywhere. This floodplain goes from the hill slope over there about three kilometers away and it's a small one. The salmon, you couldn't talk about Kamchatka either unless you said it's so interesting that the rivers are dominated by salmonids. Just about every river on the planet besides maybe way in the North Artic where it's frozen 10 months out of the year have cyprenid fishes for example. The minnows, they're the most common fishes perhaps except maybe for the catfishes and we don't have any of those here. The come in to the Kamchatka peninsula way north almost to Siberia. So something in the history of this place happened that really favored salmonids. At least that's the way it's played out.
I've heard the phrase several times and maybe it's just Guido's favorite phrase, but he keeps talking about stepping back in time. Is that the sense that you have when you come here, being able to look at a place that hasn't had the pressures that places in America have had.
I think that's fair to say I like that term for this place. On the other hand, if you want to get literal about it. There were explorers coming through here in 1730, 1700, the Kosacks came to Kamchatka before that. So, its not to say that people haven't been here for a long time and of course the Koriacks at Addelman (?) were here before that, but just due to geopolitical circumstances we have a situation where it is a step back in time from an ecological context. There's no question. If I could do it, if I could really go back in time, there's no question where I'd go, I'd go to the Columbia basin. (Columbia Basin in unison). Because it was an unbelievable river given that it has 8 different eco-regions within the watershed that comes from the Rocky Mountains right to the rainforests of the coast. So, biodiversity was off the wall, but we never got to see that, we never got measure that, we never got to describe it. (EA: But we get to do that here). We did get to do it here.
And I think that's the relevance of the large floodplain forests that we've seen that is contrasted so much with the tundra rivers that many people have told us about that might characterize the majority of Kamchatka, that tells us that even thought this is a bit further north than let's say Washington state or Oregon there's a tremendous amount of similarity and how much similarity that's part of the outcome of the research, how much can you extrapolate and in what ways, but it is potentially and partly for that reason and well as its salmonid biodiversity of course much more relevant to potential restoration and recovery management like salmonids and aquatic ecosystems in the pacific northwest on the other side of the Pacific than it otherwise might be.
So crudely put, learn some lessons and apply them back there?
Exactly, you can't go back to the Columbia, but this may give us some ideas.
Actually our position on it now is it's the floodplains stupid! (Laughing) Because even when I flew over Skina this spring with Spencer Bebee, Skina has huge salmon runs but there's a highway right up through the floodplains blocking the distributary channels that we know are absolutely crucial for salmon production. What we've tended to do throughout the Columbia basin and indeed all rivers around the world is find the lowest point on the floodplain put a big damn there and flood the reservoir water and then continue to gradually constrain the river until it has no place to go it's totally controlled until it's not and that's when the big rain events or snow events or storm events come and that's when you have the situation like you had this summer in Dresden four centuries of river control got away from them and it just slam dunked them because the river had no place to go but downtown. So, here, it's just really amazing, the river will come up and you see it's starting to carry logs and stuff now, so it's not a good thing we're seeing but at some point when this river gets to near out of bank level it won't rise anymore, it won't get any higher because it's going lateral and its got miles, square, hundreds maybe thousands of square miles to fill up. So it can't come up anymore and the high ground where this camp is will never flood. Never. But if there was a road or a series of those things then you begin to block that and it acts in various ways to stymie the basic functions of the floodplain as a floodplain and we see the river acting differently than it should.
We just don't have rivers like this do we? We've got nothing like this do we?
We have some. Think about this. The Yellowstone River is the longest free flowing river in the United States. It has no dams on it. It's in many ways similar to this. I work on a river in Montana, the Flathead, and in the middle fork of the Flathead is a huge floodplain study area for us. We're funded by the National Science Foundation, to understand nutrient cycling and biodiversity along that floodplain. But, but, those rivers don't have salmon runs. They have interesting resident trout and other fisheries issues, bull trout and so on. That doesn't belittle that at all, but I'd say your statement is pretty damn close to right that we don't have rivers like this where we have large salmon runs coming in yet. The coal, we're grossly estimating but we think there's 10 million salmon running into that river of all species. 10 million. There's five million peaks probably something like that alone. This river would be a lot lower than that but it's still probably 10,000 or so steelhead coming into this river. I mean if we added up all of the wild steelhead returning south of the Canadian border it would be two thousand or ten thousand.
Probably a few more than that but not many more 50,000 for the whole.
For the entire thing, and then of course you have some hatchery fish on top of that.
Yeah that's a pressure. There's no hatchery fish here.
Yeah but there's an increasing pressure to do that because...it's the same old story.
We are going back in time.
That the modern part of the world wants to come here and say we can catch 98% of your fish and you'll be fine because we'll build a hatchery for you. How many times does that mistake have to be made before it doesn't happen anymore. That's one of the main motivations for being here. We don't want Kamchatka to make that mistake, that one in particular.
That's an interesting point. Is that a difficult or sort of sensitive, we've messed it up in our country so we're going to come over here and tell you guys not to mess it up the way we did. Is that delicate?
Sure it is because you've got people in Petropovlask who are making a fraction of what we enjoy and it's a long winter there and lights go out and uh who are we to say you shouldn't dam yours and have all the hydropower we have or you shouldn't build hatcheries and have pens and enjoy the big bucks that are made from that. All we are doing is trying to provide by example that you can empower the local communities with wild fish and the amenities, the natural amenities that come along with it, and in so doing create an economy that's an alternative economy that sustains the natural attributes of these river ecosystems and also provides a better income, a better way of life, not a better way of life, a better income for these folks. I can't imagine that they have a bad way of life out here on the river, but it is a long winter. I suppose we could ask Micha what its like in January down at the mouth of the _____. He'd say its fine. We'd probably say it wasn't so fine.
That's working isn't it.
Well it's catching on. Clearly the wild salmon center angling program is bringing a tremendous amount of money to Kamchatka. And the meetings we had with officials on Japonava which you should quiz Guido on the tail about, more than me, it's his program. Was truly amazing because we had politicians and local powerful people saying we want this place the way it is forever and that was really neat to hear. It really was. That's a watershed that's half the size of Yellowstone, so that's not trivial landscape, and the neat thing is that there isn't a single community in the whole watershed, I don't think there is on this river either is there? (Not to my knowledge) No community in this watershed either. So the opportunity for whole watershed protection is large and probably within the realm of possibility if this model continues to be a robust one and do good things for the local people, but I think Guido told you that every manner of poaching ship is off shore right now gloaming (?) all the salmon the salmon they possibly can from the European Union ships to probably our own not to mention all the Russian and particularly Japanese boats and unless we can empower them to take care of their resource it will be a difficult task and Guido told you the horror stories.
Yeah and I think about that. You could do everything that you want on these rivers but if you still have high season reception or anything out there...
During the height of the cold war, there weren't any boats out there because the Russian military would sink them. And that's changed. But it's easier to control a terminal fishery once you get control of things. One where they're catching the fish at the mouth of the river. You can control that and that's really empowering local people to sustain that and grow it and link it to tourism and so on. To the extent you can. It's not hard to be pessimistic about eco-tourism because it hasn't in my view worked extremely well just about anywhere. It certainly hasn't been ideal. The footprint of eco-tourism can be pretty large. On the other hand, this model seems to be an alternative one that really does fit the landscape and the people that are in it.
This seems more proactive than eco-tourism. When I hear the word ecotourism to describe this, I just think it doesn't quite cover it.
Well that's the genius of Pete Savorow right there. He recognized an alternative model I think is some of us, at least I got, real excited about it, because he's using the angling people to link the touristic side of things to learning about the river and taking care of the river through scientific discovery and application. That model...Nick is there any place else where that's really truly worked the way it has here. I can't think of one.
No, no. I think the inspiration was Jack Horner's, in terms of the principle, I believe Jack Horners use of wealthy people who are interested in helping the Museum of the Rockies dig for dinosaurs in the summer. But that's not supporting there's no link to a local community that can learn how to be integrated in that in terms of the camp support and becoming guides and that's extremely unique plus the science, the fact that the anglers coming over are really getting a message from people like Jack and we're training the guides more on how to deliver that message. What is the value of what you're doing scientifically and why is your very being here subordinate to that as part of the conservation of steelhead in Kamchatka, since they are a red book listed species. So that is completely unique and all of one piece.
How do you feel about that. DO you feel good about that or as a scientist does it make you a little nervous?
Having the sponsors do some of the work.
Oh no. Not at all. I've spent my whole career at the biological station there at flathead lake. And our existence there has been dependent on support from the local community. In the sense that, if we couldn't make our data and our experience germane and relevant to their quality of life then they weren't going to be supportive of us and the legislature of course we could have persisted in ivory tower mode but the station was established to use the environment as a textbook. The outside, the open air ecosystem as the textbook and that includes people so from the very beginning we've identified ecosystems as natural and cultural systems, and taught that to the students in that way and so doing what we're doing here is not new to me but I think it's fair to say that it would be novel for a share of the scientific community. I have a very close colleague who I work with from Zurich been working with him for years and years and years, and he's a straight-laced wine and cheese type of guy and his belief is that if people can't read his science it's their own fault. You know from being in radio and communications as long as you have that you have to communicate with people or you haven't gained anything. He and I work together because we generate ideas and get science done but I've always been the spokesperson for the team and talking about the meaning of what we do.
And the ivory tower model isn't going to work out here anyway. They don't have enough money.
It's just like Ko-da-link-of said the other day. He's the man the Kamchatkan who has empowered the possibility of preserving Japonova, conserving Japonova. Conservation, it's not preservation because they intend to use the resources there. He talked about why as he called it wild nature was important to him and put it in the context of that big river system and it was wonderful to hear and then he was out of there. He said ¿you guys can talk about science until the moon goes down¿ and he was out of there. SO he was only interested in science to the extent that it would help him accomplish his goals there and this case, his goals are mutual, but he's not really interested in the details.
What do you want to do here?
Well, I want to do here what I've done throughout my whole career. I want to discover new things about how ecosystems work, and I want to see that information used to maintain the delivery of natural goods and service for human use. I think that we can use the lessons here to better the conditions for people in the united states and I'm a US citizen and that's my moral obligation to apply my science in a way that helps people live well, and I co-authored a book a decade ago now nearly in which where we examined the availability of fresh water on the planet pretty closely and it was called The Freshwater Imperative and back then we predicted what World Watch just came out and said that as much as half the people on the globe don't have access to healthful water and for most of that half it's worse than healthful, it's unbelievable that people can survive on it, and it's getting worse. Wars are going to be fought soon and more recent the other kinds of reasons we're talking about it but largely it would be about water. Fresh water, and water to grow crops with, so to the extent that we can help allay that through what we learn here that would be good.
So it isn't just coming over here and saying wow look at this incredible place, let's just look at this place and find out how it works and we as scientists will check out all the different connections and what makes it work and end of story. To you it sounds even more important that you apply the lessons learned here back there.
I do because I think there are rivers, whole watersheds in the United States that can be fully restored to this level, but it requires a new ethic, a new environmental ethic and it requires proactive commitment throughout people's careers within agencies that I believe currently don't have those people working for them.
So you think um some of the lessons here can be applied to management but it's going to take a seat change I mean it's going to take a dramatic difference just in terms of how scientists are even thinking about things.
It's less scientists than the policy makers and the people who advise them. I can even say confidently that I can sit around with a bunch of agriculturalists in the United States that use resources every day to grow crops for us and come to an understanding about how to do that in a better way. The dilemma that we run into is that people who are setting policy don't have that more expansive view and they tend to through their actions inadvertently and too often overtly polarize people like try to polarize people like me versus people who are using the resources every day and I very much resent that, and what to put people in those positions who have a different viewpoint. That's the only way you can change it. In many cases if we just have time to talk to people and bring them to a place like this they have a new outlook on the way they conduct their business and we should do that here too. Not just for people from North America but for people from Russia and Asia and so on. Maybe even from parts of the world where water is really scarce.
In working with some of these Russians scientists do you think there's a difference in terms of approach, sort of between the American scientist and the Russian scientist community?
Actually I thought so going in but the more I've worked with them I've realized no they put their pants on the same way we do, and they think about things maybe a little more in a traditional way that they are departments of ichthyology they are departments of earth sciences or just geology or botany and so on. And we're at least my group is much more synthetic than that. We cover all the physical sciences and all the biological sciences and we call and cultural sciences to the extent that we go there and we call that ecology. SO hopefully we can say that yeah we have a pretty similar approach to things but we can all learn from this experience and I think we're doing that. (Nick: Indeed).
I mean it sounds largely like your experience has been very positive in terms of the cultural...the international aspect of this.
Yeah, it really has. It's a bit frustrating sometimes because the Russians want to make sure they're not ripped off in this deal and fair enough. They want their samples to go to Moscow, be inventoried there and then dispensed appropriately so that the agreement results in cooperative products, scientific products, intellectual products, and why not that's a Russian flag flying over there. To mediate this and to ensure this, we try to do everything through written agreements. We have a very formal, signed by the heads of the department for how we conduct ourselves. That's good because it gives us all the same marching orders.
What's been the most surprising not necessarily discovery but just for you what's been the most surprising in your work over here?
Well again it's the floodplain forest for me for sure. Maybe another cool story is one that Nick and I did a little jig over is that we had a back channel way away from the river that was connected the bottom end to the river and there were large numbers of small fish in there and we took a regular fish landing dip net and went like this in a snag that had fallen over and after we'd looked at all the fish, we realized that we'd caught 7 species of almonds in one sweep of dip net through a shallow water off channel environment. We did a jig on that because number one the conventional thinking in the United States and in Canada at least is that fish productivity in rivers doesn't really come from those kinds of environments. Number two that almonds really segregate and have specific habitat types. Much of the river management is done by deciding what kind of water levels are needed and what kind of habitats for what kind of fish. And here they were, all living together in exactly same environment and they probably have complex behaviors that we haven't learned yet but this environment is sufficiently diverse that they can coexist and do that in a hugely productive way. So, there's some scientific dogma in that one sweep of a net for Nick and me went away. We suspected that was the case.
In fact from the get go probably the very first day when we came here from the Ku-de-gur-ova we didn't have the jig experience but we did see a dramatic change in the channel that had just happened very, very recently dynamic changes, rivers flooding through the forest all the abandoned channels and these off channel habitats where we also had to collect juveniles because the electro shocker that was with us didn't, there was no kerosene or gasoline to run it so we had to do the kids playing around with the net and we were very successful and also commonly saw several species and several age classes of pacific salmon and char in very small waters and we would multiple species, maybe three or four maybe five juxtaposed to this very new, newly formed in the flow channel environment and that kind of told us right away that some of the preconceptions that we might have had about Kamchatka as well as fish behavior, salmon behavior from back home (EA: and the way we managed them) And the way we managed them were quite different and that this was the salmonid equivalent in a sense which we still knew we had much to learn about of what Jack had been studying for years in the Flathead.
All right so this is very interesting, so the guy in Poughkeepsie gets this so correct me if I'm wrong but with one sweep we manage rivers for a particular fish.
We write endangered species acts, biological opinions for one fish that has 300 individuals left
And in a sweep of the net that was completely blown out of the water.
Well it was because it shows that juveniles of anadromous salmon, first of all they live across a huge landscape and they use it all and secondly that all of these different species were living in exactly the same place so it just underscores why these rivers are fish factories, why the floodplain rivers of Kamchatka are just fish factories of every species of salmonids that lives in the Pacific Rim, so excitement by all means.
What was in the net?
Well we had, we had, let's see if we can click them off here, we had chinuk, we had sakai, we had koho, (Nick: We had steelhead rainbow), We had white spotted char, we had dolly varden, that's seven right there that's it. But we had one more (Nick: but we thought a chum but that was likely a sakai). What we have that we haven't ticked off is masoo salmon, but what we didn't have in the sweep net was micus.
the one in the back channel on Oblokovona, the tributary to Oblokovona, we had the micus, that was the big discovery we saw and then we realized that we in addition to the micus there were six or seven Pacific salmon and char.
Yeah that's right so seven total.
There were so many that you guys can't
1.59.39 In unison
(Nick): We can't remember them all. We have to consult the notebooks¿(Jack): We remember the seven, absolute seven we do.
What did you do, what did you say?
We just kind of (Nick: Smiled) High fisted each other and said yeah I knew it. And we had some of the Russians with us and a couple of geneticists with us and a lightbulb clicked on for them to.
Now did you tell people that back home and were you met with disbelief?
No, because we went on to document it carefully and we published a paper on it now and I think there's a tendency for people to say, oh that's Kamchatka, that's different. Kamchatka, they don't have all the problems we have here and we've got to manage our fish to make sure people get fishing experiences and catch some fish and blah blah blah. And uh, they tend to dismiss it like that if they're not thinking out of the box. But I'd say that the majority of the scientific community embraced it and said well we thought we'd heard you talk about that before and we're not surprised to hear that you documented it there. And actually some of the scientists said yeah I've seen two and three species together and some rivers on the North American side. So, yeah, it was accepted just fine.
If you were sitting at a bar in New Jersey and talking to the guy next to and he said Jack Stanford what is the value of this to me or my kid or anybody for that matter. What is the value of what you're doing over there.
That's easy. I'd just look them in the eye and say you want your children to have fresh water to drink? Do you know how long a person can live without healthful water? Not very long. Do you have any idea, let's say you're from Dallas-Fort Worth, Do you have any idea how long it would be if we weren't able to deliver chlorine to Dallas Fort-Worth that you would be out of water unless you had a household disinfection device. Well, it would be four hours. So, what we're learning is how rivers work to naturally cleanse the water. And, the fact that we have goods and services like timber and fish flesh to go along with those as one of those goods that are produced by the services that the ecosystem provides is just another plus. Most of the richest soils on earth are on the floodplains because the river is put a little bit of the very best silt up there every year and as a consequence of damming and revatting and overusing those soils we depleted them. Well, the river will put them back together again. You know by then with a few pictures we've got them hooked if they're reasonable people.
What's your hope? How are we for time?
I should change tapes. We need about 2 ½ minutes of this tape
Why don't you change tapes? Am I taking too long?
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