Guido Rahr, Elizabeth Arnold
Fly fishing sounds
Guido Rahr, Elizabeth Arnold
Guido Rahr, Jack Stanford, E. Arnold
Conversations regarding fish dissections in a cabin.
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
30 Sep 2002
- Kamchatka Peninsula
- 56.47139 159.42993
Subject 1 and 6 are decoded MS stereo. Spaced omni mics used for Subjects 2-5.
Log of DAT #: 4
Engineer: Michael Schweppe
Date: Sept. 30, 2002 -October 1, 2002
I know but its funny the Coho's migrate these little channels and stuff and swampy spots and if you're really there you can see them rolling.
Because there in major spawning mode by then?
Maybe we're late for them and they're already done. (EA: don't you think)
Take 4 I think. Maybe five. Monday 29th-30th M/S. (EA and GR talking in the background)
Where are we right now?
Sopochnaya River just looking at Babushka. We're on a gravel bar in the middle of nowhere.
Where are we and why are we here? (Laughing)
How'd you get started doing all this.
Um well, I'd been working in fish conservation for about 10 years. I've been 17 years in the conservation business, and I started off working on rainforest issues and then about 1990 I moved from the east coast back out to Oregon and worked for Oregon trout petitioning, working to list salmon and steelhead under the endangered species act, and did that for about 7 years and hooked up with Pete Soverel who's our founder and together we kind of built this organization.
What even attracted you to the notion?
Well the whole idea is to try to find and save the last best salmon rivers across the pacific rim and I mean I spent 10 years, well I spent 7 years in the Northwest fighting pitched battles trying to protect the last of what we've got and using the endangered species act it just occurred to me increasingly over the years that if you really want to save something you've got to get there first and get there early before it's been beaten up and is at its eleventh hour. And um we realized that if we really wanted to have healthy salmon in 500 years or 10,000 years, you can't do it by starting with the rivers that already have dams and clear cuts and farms and agriculture and thousands of people. One of the most tragic lessons that we've learned in the Northwest is that no amount of money can bring the salmon back to the way they once were once the damage has been done and if you really want to save salmon the most effective way to do it is to find the rivers that haven't yet been pounded where the fish are still there the habitat are still there and work aggressively and creatively to protect those places while we still can.
Do you want to¿
MS rustles about
Well that's something I want to touch on which is it delicate because it's like we've messed up ours, now we're going to come over here and tell you how not to mess up yours.
Yeah, yeah it's. I mean it's absolutely¿they kind of do a double-take and say ok you messed up yours, now you're a prosperous nation you want us to not mess up ours and what do you want to keep us back in the Stone Age, and the argument we're making is we're not trying to stop them from developing their natural resourced we're just telling them that they've got a chance that we had and we lost 200 years ago, 150 years ago, that they can develop those resources but why don't they set aside a few places so that they can keep their options open. Instead of damaging every river why not take a few of them and protect them. And that's very different than saying don't develop oil, don't develop gas, don't develop gold.
And isn't it also, don't do this here and we'll help you to not do it here.
Yeah, our role is, these resources belong to the Russians, and in some ways they belong to the world and some people can say those boundaries are just political boundaries and the planet, it's one planet that we all live on so it's multiple arguments but we generally kind of veer away form the argument here and say look this is your country these are your rivers and our job is to give you as much information and support and alternatives as we can so that you can benef9it from some of the mistakes that we made in our own country and salmon we've got 500 years of complete screw-ups in the Atlantic and the Pacific so there's a lot of stuff to draw from.
How do we help them?
Well, we can help them in a couple of ways. I mean the main way is just to be involved and find the right groups who want to do the right thing and support them give them the scientific literature, give them the history, give them money, give them tools. Bring them over to our country, show them what the Columbia basin looks like and that's been very effective. For instance Kamchatka is kind of at the threshold of building and not building fish hatcheries. There's like two fish hatcheries on the peninsula. Here you've a peninsula that produces up to a third of all the wild salmon in the Pacific and the Japanese are giving the Kamchatkans money to build fish hatcheries. So we and other organizations brought the Russians over to the United States and showed them the piles of literature and the many fish hatcheries and all the information that shows you that hatcheries don't actually give you more fish than healthy habitat does, and now there's a growing constituency here that says hey maybe lets not build hatcheries and lets set aside some of the rivers as salmon producing rivers and we haven't, that battle hasn't been won or lost yet but Kamchatka is kind of at the tipping point where it could go either way.
Now you have spent a lot of time over here doing sort of diplomatic work, I mean that's got to be a big part of it. How's that work and how is it going?
Well, it's going well, but its not like, there's not set backs. I mean, in the Koryak state-Kamchatka is two provinces the Kamchatka autonomous region and the Korack autonomous region to the north.
Which is where we are now.
We're up in Koryakia. And the previous governor was a Koryak Indian who believed strongly in conservation and set up a huge native traditional resource use zone that was where we are right now. The next governor is a platinum minor Loganoff and the first thing he did was eliminate this traditional resource use area and he's been pretty lukewarm on conservation so Kamchatka, the people here are hungry and the economy is depressed and there's definitely a drumbeat to develop natural resources. And I guess what amazes me is how much support there is among the Russians want to protect natural resources as well as develop them.
Who do you get that from, who do you hear that from?
We hear that from a growing number of local non-profit conservation groups. Well, there's the native group-the Koryak and the Eddelmen and they are strong supporters of conservation because its protecting the resources that they need, and there's lots of conservation groups and they're proliferating because they're really afraid. I mean with today's communication and the media, they can see what's happening to other places. Now also, across the sea of Othosk, hundreds of miles due west of here there's a huge oil development program off of Sakhalin Island. And there are developing oil and the standards for developing that oil are very low, the Russians haven't held the bar very high and they're already seeing the whales are disappearing, there are big beachings of dead herring. So, the Kamchatkans don't have too look very far to see what's coming around the corner.
But you're trying to do a lot here, right? I mean you really are. It's a huge task.
Yeah it's a big task. This is a place the size of California. It's huge. I mean it absolutely is huge. It's big and its at umm¿yeah it's pretty ambitious. It's we, we as in our Russian partners, I think that people know in Russia and the international community is starting to know that this is the last big chunk of real estate along the northern pacific rim whose fate hasn't really been decided. I mean, it's not like the natural resource development industries have been totally entrenched, and uh, you know its become apparent that this is a place that is absolutely spectacular.
And what you guys are doing isn't deciding specifically its fate but hoping to push it into a certain direction.
That's right. Yeah we have to be careful because its not our country but we can be smart and work with our Russian partners and give them the tools they need and to support their efforts. Ultimately it's there own decisions, but it's surprising how much support there is. I'm really amazed. I feel like there's more support here for conservation than there is in the United States right now. I mean-there-It may be because the interests haven't become so entrenched the battle lines haven't been so drawn. It's not like-you know-we're in a very kind of plastic time. It's like the Wild West out here. I think it was a lot easier in our country to set up parks and protected areas 50-60 years ago definitely than it is right now. Of course, Bill Clinton had a pretty strong run of successes there for a little bit but uh-
But it didn't go unchallenged right?
There's challenges here to, yeah make no mistake about that.
In a very small way though, um, you're doing it because I'm sure one of the biggest obstacles is economic, when you go to a place like PK or you know the one village we saw when we flew over, if they're dependent on fishing, and there's a lot of and yet you when I was talking to Kirill he was saying you know if we want to get a handle on the poaching if we want to get a handle on a lot of things we have to show folks that there's actually a way to do this without hurting them further economically.
Right, yeah, that's the thing.
Well you're doing that on a small scale though with these camps aren't you?
Yeah, absolutely. I guess the message is it's not the environment versus jobs. It's not the environment versus the economy. It's the economy versus the economy. Just the question is, is it a fish economy or is it a natural gas economy. And we and our Russian partners in economic forecasting projecting the values of the different resources of time and it's true natural gas and gold will give you more money over a shorter period of time but if you average out those benefits over a longer period of time the fish gets you more money. And also the fish gets you more locally over the long term. So, our basic strategy, and when I see we, its we and our Russian partners is to not only encourage them and to take a few rivers and protect them, the entire ecosystem, but also to simultaneously help them to develop types of businesses that can benefit from those. If Kamchatka sets aside millions of acres as salmon refuges that won't be sustainable politically unless they're making money from it in other ways. And one way they can make money from it is tourism. Alaska, it's a billion dollar a year industry recreational angling and Kamchatka there's just a few hundred anglers a year that come over here but Kamchatka could bump up that part of the economy and that is a strong incentive to protect rivers. If you go to Alaska and try to whack one of those beautiful rivers in Alaska, you'll have all the lodge owners going crazy. And in Kamchatka it's kind of an open playing field so if we can help the Russians develop angling tourism that will be one of the most powerful tools to protect these rivers really for the international benefit, for the global benefit. Now, I don't think that you can say that angling tourism is the only answer, that's only one piece of it, but uh, what we're trying to do on the Sopochnaya and a few other rivers is show the Russians it can work. And the idea is not just show them that angling tourism can work but to try to reinvent sport fishing such a way that it not ¿it creates local jobs but it also generates data for the scientists, so the anglers coming into these different camps also provides support for the scientists who come and work shoulder to shoulder with the fishermen and the fishermen help the scientists by gathering data and the scientists have a warm place to say and the Russians and the Americans are all hanging out together catching fish. And um, so it's a couple multiple ways that we can get benefit from it.
And underlying all of this is the conservation ethic that sort of seeps in hopefully.
Right, absolutely, the only way that there will be steelhead in Kamchatka in a hundred years is if they are worth more alive than they are dead. And umm--
_____ poachers and the guides. (GR: Right) Do you like the phrase ecotourism though? I mean it doesn't seem like its ecotourism. It seems like it's more proactive than that. Eco-tourism to me seems like you go to Costa Rica and you stay in a groovy eco-friendly hut, and then you go do what you would normally do you know you go diving or this that or the other and you kind of feel good about it. This is more than that. You've got people out there doing scale samples and stuff.
You know, I don't know if we have a name for it yet, I mean angling, eco-tourism seems to be the closest thing and maybe there needs to be a new way to describe it but its really recruiting the visitors to actively support the place that they're visiting and to really get involved with conservation and management so they're contributing, but yeah maybe it is a little bit more than classic eco-tourism, it's definitely more than tourism-tourism.
How do you think the scientists feel about it?
Oh, the scientists love it. When we first started coming over here-see the Soviets had a strong support base for science and the scientists that studied these rivers were from Moscow which is 12 time zones-I mean we're closer to Moscow in, probably in Minnesota than Moscow is to Kamchatka. We're probably closer to Kamchatka in Seattle than Moscow is to Kamchatka, so it's expensive. So when the Soviet Union collapsed the Russian scientists couldn't afford to come here anymore and their long term research programs stalled out because they didn't have any money. The collapse of the Soviet Union, the bottom fell out for the funding for research so that was when we approached the Russians and said listen, if you take us to these rivers and let us catch and release these fish, we'll support your science and the Russians loved it and love it, and its this really interesting partnership between American anglers and Russian scientists, and its gone on for almost 10 years. And they published 33 peer-reviewed papers based on the work. And it turns out that fishermen are great data collectors and they can collect the scale off the fish and count the rings, the scientists can count the rings and let the fish go, instead of having to sane it or electroshock it or something.
So we're providing for them from their perspective (a) we're helping with funding but (b) we're also providing our own motivation based on our own lousy experience with what we've done with our rivers.
Yeah but its at a couple of different levels. Right. Um. Well there's, we're almost like coming, we're almost like going back in time and trying to get it right one last time in Kamchatka with the Russians, but we're also, these rivers are absolutely out in the middle of nowhere, and it's our presence here in the rivers with the Russian scientists is one of the best insurance policies that they'll be protecting because it means that somebody is here, somebody is valuing them. I mean someone is here to be here to know if someone proposes a goldmine up on that mountain and that just by itself is a very powerful tool. And also, by every fisherman that comes here kind of falls in love with the place, and so every year there's more and more people from Europe or the United states who say ¿Wow! The Sopochnaya is the most beautiful steelhead river I've ever seen and there's bears everywhere and stellar sea eagles. So someday, when its fate is being decided there will at least be a constituency in addition to the local people that want to see it saved.
So you're building a constituency but you're also at the same time building a scientific rationale for protecting it as well.
Absolutely, Absolutely. I mean the conservation has to be built on science and the first step in protecting any place is figuring out what's there. And for these rivers that, it's a really rare chance to find out what's there before they're messed up. In the Northwest, we didn't know, we didn't count the fish, we didn't measure the habitat until we'd already been cutting trees down and building dams 30-40-or 50 years. We didn't start paying attention-we didn't know what we'd lost, and by the time we started trying to restore salmon in the Northwest, we realized that we didn't really know what we were trying to restore. Here we can get a sound baseline of what the system is supposed to look like in it's natural state, and then we can measure change over time. That's a great opportunity.
And if not here, where?
Yeah, there's hardly any place else. I mean they're really beating up the southern part of the Russia far east right now--with Indonesian logging companies and other types of development. By the way Elizabeth, am I talking to long on my answers?
No you're fabulous.
What are you um, you gotta go around and talk folks up and convince them to give you guys money. What do you tell the guys who so just doesn't get it? I mean he doesn't fish¿What do you tell these guys?
Well, sometimes you can't tell them anything. Uh¿it's really, each person has to decide, say listen, do you want your great grandchildren to know there's some place on the planet where there's still wild salmon and wild bears and beautiful forests that are still as beautiful as they were a thousand years ago. I mean that's the question.
Does it work though?
Sometimes it works.
Isn't it more effective to say: Do you want to come over to this incredible place and catch this BIG FISH. The BIGGEST FISH YOU'VE EVER CAUGHT.
Fifteen pound chrome steelhead. That definitely works. That works.
I mean you've gotta do that though right. You've gotta do that day in and day out. I mean this isn't running itself. You've got to raise money for this thing.
Yeah, absolutely. No I mean there's no better way. You just hit it. The best way to show people, convince them this is an important place to protect is to get them waste deep in the river, preferably connected to a great big chrome steelhead that's pulling his line all the way out and is around the next bin somersaulting in the air. But it's true, it's true. You can't really tell the story unless they've been here. I kind of thought you were saying to someone in their office whose never going to come here.
I mean yeah, what do you do, that is a question as well. I mean it's gotta be¿what do you tell somebody in a bar in Portland who says so now what do you do? What is this place?
What I hear a lot is, we gotta restore our own fish, why are you going all the way over to Russia to help them with their fish. And uh the bottom line is if you really want to win, you want something to be here in 10,000 years you've gotta think way beyond our national border, you have to think at a global level if you really expect to succeed. I mean that's the big picture. You've got to get ahead of the extinction curve of those last places while we still can.
Did you just get so frustrated doing it in the Pacific Northwest?
Oh yeah (EA laughs) Yeah, I mean you do. All my friends and colleagues were working in the Pacific Northwest too on a few beautiful river systems. We can't give up on the Pacific Northwest. We've got to keep working and over time we may learn how to restore salmon. It's not going to Russia or the Olympic peninsula or Alaska doesn't mean you're giving up on the Columbia Basin it just means that while we are restoring our own rivers lets go to these other places and see what we can do,
And isn't there another element? I've definitely heard it from some of the scientists involved. I mean hearing it from Steve, you can look here and see what these places-I don't want to say are supposed to look-but at least it gives you a new contact for looking at the problems back home.
Totally. Oh my gosh. We bring biologists over every year. We had a very famous scientist Jim Lickatowasher last year and it was totally a life changing experience for him. He was very moved, and from the helicopter he looked out over these rivers and he finally said, ¿Oh my God. I've always wanted to know what our rivers were supposed to look like and once looked like. This happens again and again. The scientists that get these Aha moments looking out at the rivers. That's especially true because on our rivers the lower gradient floodplain reaches, the stretches of the river closest to the ocean have been hit the hardest and they were first ones to be developed for agriculture. And we didn't even know those places were important and science was pointing in the direction that these places were important and then we came to Kamchatka where the biological engines of the whole river system the river would just spread out over the floodplains and create all these side channels and swampy little pools that were just shaking with juvenile salmon. So it's really helpful. It tells you a lot. People come back to the Northwest after being here and it helps them figure out what we're trying to return our rivers to. That doesn't mean we need to depopulate our salmon rivers but it can help us make the decisions what part of the rivers to protect first. What parts to restore first and how to value different places in the river.
What's the greatest obstacle to all this work. Is it diplomacy, is it poaching, is it all kinds of things?
The greatest obstacle is the inevitable growth of the human population of the Northern Pacific Rim and it's hunger for natural resources.
Where there's natural resources there are unnatural resources.
There are natural resources here and yeah there going to be developed. It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of time. We know that in this area where we are now there's coal, and there's natural gas. There's gold two watersheds to the south and there's huge unproven reserves of oil right off the coast underneath the continental shelf. We know it's just a matter of time and right now we're right at the threshold. So it is a matter of time and that's the scariest thing of all. This place will be very different in 10 year, never mind a hundred years. And the second thing is the Russian people-Kamchatka was subsidized by the Soviet economy, for 20 or 30 years and when the Soviet Union fell apart the money for local economies kind of dried up. So now you've got 450,000 people on a peninsula the size of California that are very hungry and have very little money and they want to jump start the economy so it's an open territory for people who want to do that. So we're here trying to be just as smart and aggressive as the other people chasing those same resources. We're not going to fight proposals to do this or that we're going to be a little bit smarter and a little bit faster than our competitors who want to build goldmines and natural gas, and that's a fundamentally different approach than fighting bad things that are already happening. That's not to say people don't need to fight those things or make sure those things happen in the right kind of way but its other groups who are doing that.
What do they say to you. You go in there with an interpreter and talk to some government official and say what you want to do. I mean do they get it, do they laugh at you, do they try to explain to you their economic situation. What do you face?
Well first, we've been coming over here now almost for 10 years and I've been coming over here with the Wild Salmon Center since 1997. At the first meetings they were definitely with kind of a smile looking at me saying ok why are you really here? I as interviewed on the radio one time and they said, ¿What are you doing here?¿ and I told them I said there's very few chances to save salmon. This is one of the last great chances. And she said, ¿well in Russia we have a saying the easiest cheese to get is in the mousetrap.¿ Then our main Russian partner was approached by the FSB, which is the next generation to the KGB and he said ¿why are these Americans here trying to raise money to try to help us set aside these rivers. I mean, we just don't get it, and my partner Vladimir said, no they really care, they really want to do this and the FSB guy said I think we know why. They want to get all the Kamchatka salmon and make them swim over the Columbia River so they can catch them. And Vladimir said ¿no no don't worry that'll never work there's like five dams and the rivers are polluted, the fish will just turn around and come right back to Russia.
Interesting idea though. At first it was skepticism but the tides started to turn about a year and a half ago and in part because we just started building strong relationships and they know that we don't have any mysterious, devious plans and we have strong partners who believe and for me one of the key moments was we were in a United Nations development program meeting and I have this map that shows that and I gave a slideshow to the Russian delegation and it had a map of the oil reserves in the sea of Okhotsk and during the slideshow I realized that none of the Russians had seen that map before and I'd forgotten where I'd gotten it, but I'd gotten it off the World Wildlife Fund website. So later I found out from my Russian partners that they think I got that from the CIA, and I was just totally like someone punched me in the stomach because after awhile you just say look I'm not the CIA. And then my Russian partners just kind of patted me on the back and said don't worry Guido, together we'll show them that this is what we're trying to do and the tide started to turn. I can't say that there's not Russians that aren't scratching their heads still but our partners in the local administration in Kamchatka and the Federal fish management agency know that we're for real and we're not going away tomorrow, we'll be here as long as it takes. And that was a, it seems like we were pushing the ball up the hill for a long time but now its finally started to roll down the other side.
You have enough good stories that are probably being told about what's going on up here as well in the community.
Yeah I think so. I think so.
28 32 EA
I mean for every kid who's helping you know who see, obviously you're spreading the conservation gospel but also they're employed. Absolutely, they've got a job. They're making money and they see that it's totally confusing to them that they see us catch a fish and let it go again.
(GR: New concept)
Well you know, tell me about that, how long have you been fishing?
Oh, I've been fishing my whole life, but I've been fly fishing since I was about 15.
And you're a nutcake. You're a steelhead nutcake, right? I mean you really are.
Yeah, I guess I am, yeah. Laughs. I'm definitely over the edge.
Well, what is it about steelhead?
Oh, steelhead. I don't know. They're kind of the holy grail out here. I mean there's not fish as graceful as a steelhead and if you like to fish for trout with a fly steelhead is kind of the far end of the spectrum. You fish hard for each fish, and they usually are strong and beautiful and the places where they live are among the most beautiful and they really, boy, they get you wrapped around their fins. They really get you obsessed. They're not easy top catch and its kind of amazing. They're the great travelers. They're basically rainbow trout that have gone all the way out in the ocean. They swim further than most of the salmon. They've caught Oregon fish off the coast of Korea, and they come all the way back to these beautiful rivers and they take a little fly.
And there's a whole cult built around it.
Oh there's definitely a cult. Definitely a cult. We're obsessed and weird. We go out in the middle of wintertime and pounding rain all day long casting, and then we can't wait to get back out there.
And you might only catch-a good day is catching one steelhead.
Catching one steelhead a day is a good day. Catching 3 is just unbelievable and catching 4 you start to feel guilty and want to stop fishing.
But I see what you're saying. I made a list last night of all the different people who are here and all their reasons for being here and the link is the steelhead. I mean even the scientists. They love the fish and they love the science but they also like to steelhead fish.
Yeah, they totally do. Oh they're totally into it. I mean we're all crazy about steelhead. Geez. And there's no doubt about it. Why would people come to the most remote place along the Pacific rim, hundreds of miles from the nearest telephone. Cast all day, catch one steelhead, and be completely lit up all evening, you know. There's fisherman way out up on the Otoick. I mean they're absolutely in the middle of nowhere, and I think it's an acquired taste. I mean you kind of graduate from perch to bass to trout to big trout and then you end up at steelhead and that self selects for the most fanatical fisherman. Of course, there's a lot of bass fishermen that would strongly disagree.
Well, I'm still at the trout level, but I'm getting there Guido. (GR: You just wait) No, I'm already bit. But that is a big part of this too-I mean these guys, it's catching on in the US what's going on over here in Kamchatka, that there are these incredible steelhead over here.
Yeah. Well the future of these steelhead depends on it catching on. It really does. If there's no value to these fish, they'll be netted every winter by the local poachers and steelhead are in danger in Russia. The rivers in southern Kamchatka don't have steelhead anymore, and these rivers are kind of on the edge and if the steelhead fishermen stop coming to Kamchatka its probably the last chance for these steelhead and I'm not just being dramatic. It's there best chance for there to be a local economy built around these crazy fishermen showing up here every year. And if the fishermen stop showing up the Russian scientists won't come here anymore because they can't afford to come here.
That's a concept that's hard for people I'm sure to understand which is the future of these fish relies on people coming and fishing. Yeah. It's uh. I've never seen such a dramatic example of it depending on the people that are hooking them so much. But if the fishermen stop coming to the Sopochnaya the poachers would have their full run of the place and they would fish this down to just a very few fish. But the fishermen showing up every year and the scientists showing up means someone's paying attention and someone's here. And we'll be fishing and now and then an ATV come grinding along an old road, an ATV is an old recycled Russian tank. You'll be fishing and a couple of guys will come shuffling up and you'll see them watching the fishermen and they see the smoke coming from chimneys in camp they turn around and go on to the next river.
So your presence is-
Our presence protects these rivers. Absolutely. And if we can grow the local economy at all around the idea of actually catching and releasing steelhead there might be a good hope for them. There's a good chance. The only other strategy which is overlapping is getting the watershed protected forever in the salmon refuge and that is the homerun and if you can get that there's no better insurance policy for salmon or steelhead.
How near impossible is that?
Oh my gosh well it's definitely probably impossible south of Canada in our country. But in Russia-Kamchatka is the last chance in our lifetime and maybe the last chance ever to get an entire river system from headwaters to the ocean protected forever. Kamchatka's got hundred of rivers that are uninhabited and the Russians are willing and interested and excited to set aside a few of these rivers. Now for some reason there's refuges that have been created for waterfowl and for deer and elk and everything you can imagine but for some reason refuges have never been created for salmon. And Kamchatka, in Kamchatka, the local people are suddenly crazy about the idea of creating salmon refuges and there's one in western Kamchatka that has 10 species of salmon, trout and char in it, which is a world record all in the same watershed. Chinook, Coho, pink, char, sockeye, rainbow trout, steelhead, dolly varden, and asian masoo salmon, and asian white spotted char all in the same river, and the Russians want to protect it from headwaters to the ocean 600,000 acres, and we are doing everything we can to support them. And the local legislature has created a task force to designate another 5.5 million acres of salmon refuges in Kamchatka. This is just an unbelievable opportunity that no nation has or maybe will ever have. This is it. This is it right now. So what we're doing is scrambling to get as much support as we can in the hands of the Russians that want to do this so they can ride this way and make it happen because believe me, the longer it takes them to bring this proposal forward the longer it'll take for people who don't want to happen to get organized. And I've been totally blown away that this has happened. Because in our country Livingston stone proposed salmon refuges a hundred years ago and everybody laughed at them and said there are so many salmon you must be crazy. And he said no, look what happened to the buffalo, and today we've got most of our salmon are on the endangered species list. And there's not a single river that's got the whole, all the habitats there. So Kamchatka is really important not just to Kamchatkans but it's important to everyone who has ever loved to salmon and wants to see a place set aside that will always have that.
What do you like about this place. What moves you.
I don't know it's like going back in time and it's being, you're kind of alternately terrified to be in such a remote wild place and alternately blown away by the beauty. You're up on these helicopters smell like diesel kind of banging away and you look out the window and for hundred of miles you can see nothing but completely natural hills and valleys and oceans and lakes and rivers flowing out to the ocean and also this place is unbelievable for-nobody can come here and not feel it. You also feel like an explorer and you may be seeing something that is new and hasn't been seen before. It's um-you just know that there's nothing like this around. I like coming here and catching the fish too.
Really? It also provides perspective doesn't it. I mean you come to a place that's so vast it gives you a different perspective on what your life is really about.
Yeah, it totally does. It's like it resets your clock. You spend a week you can kind of get there. Three weeks you feel like you've gone and reset your clock. It's like you suddenly are you know you go back to civilization and the phone rings and it just pegs your adrenaline meter. It's like you come back here and it reorients you to kind of everything real. It's just the sun coming up and going down and the storms coming in and going out and the river flowing down. Am I even answering your question?
Yeah. Keeping warm, catching fish.
Yeah, uh huh, smelling a fire. Drinking vodka.
But I mean you can do all that at on the Yellowstone but it's a, it's a very different experience.
You are still-Yellowstone still seems like Madison Ave. compared to this.
What's your uh-have you been surprised at how successful this has been and has it been. I mean-
It's too early-
(EA: is it?)
It's just¿it's too early to know.
But where were you five years ago compared to now?
Yeah, we've definitely. There's been a massive change. Like I said we were rolling that, we were pushing that ball up here and it seemed like it was never going to flatten out and now I swear to gosh, I think its starting to roll down the other side but knocking on wood it's too early to know if we're going to succeed but what we have done is we've kept the Russian in science and making new discoveries about steelhead and trout. We've brought Americans over here and now they're supposed to know what the rivers are supposed to look like and it's enabled them to reorient our own efforts to protect salmon. The Russians have now, some of them are wild about creating salmon refuges for the first time in the history of the planet. Anyone's ever gotten really excited about that idea. But we haven't protected anything yet and it may be ten years I just don't know. So it's too early to be saying that anything's really successful yet. But the pieces are starting to come into place I think.
What about the American piece in terms of sponsors is that coming in to play? Do you have to scrounge for it or are people signing up.
A few-uh-we are definitely scrounging. And well, let me rephrase that. Again that's kind of-we spent uh-the person who developed the angling program is Peter Soverel. He's our chairman and founder and he's completely committed to Russian salmon and steelhead and the Russian partners. It's been a really interesting relationship. Pete is a total visionary. He's the one that thought of this whole idea of using fishermen to support the science and conservation. So each year, we went out and recruited anglers and each year we got a few more. This year we'll have 250, which is the most we've ever had and that's a lot of anglers. The amount of money-it's not a windfall financially. I mean, it basically breaks even and creates science and supports the scientific efforts on the watersheds so it's a very-there's not a margin on the ecotourism project really. Now a few of the rivers have been discovered. There's one called the Japonova that we're completely booked for next year. But the steelhead rivers will never be a high volume activity. It'll be enough to succeed with the different projects but steelheaders are kind of a weird subset of the whole angling community. But what we've learned is that the best chances for doing tourism in volume so it will really help the Kamchatka economy is trout and Kamchatka probably has some of the best trout fishing on the planet. Steelhead will always work for those steelheaders and it's those steelheaders that are really into the sport and the fish that come here because these are some of the biggest and strongest steelhead in the world. I mean these fish are so fat and they're giant and yeah gradually more and more steelheaders are discovering it but for the steelhead project to be successful I don't think we need vast numbers of steelheader we just need enough to keep these camps and a few rivers going. So they'll be probably each camp has got no more than 6 or 7 steelheaders a week and that's maybe 30 a year something like that.
Could you ever walk away from this? If somebody came up to you and said Guido, man, there's this wild project in New Zealand and blah blah blah blah blah, could you ever let go of this?
Oh well no. Not right now. I've had job offers, great offers, no it's not even a question. This is the most exciting opportunity in our lifetime for salmon. I mean its-I don't think there'd be a lot of argument there. No, I could never-I couldn't see walking away from it. I think my wife sometimes wishes that I would maybe walk away from it. No, she totally understands it and supports it.
But why is it? Is it because of the place and what you're trying to do?
It's the last big set of salmon rivers in the world. Well there are two things. These are the most species rich and maybe the most productive salmon rivers on the planet. And there also the biggest assemblage of undamaged pristine watersheds along the Pacific Rim.
Yeah, but why do you care so much?
Because this is my life's work.
Well, it's just because I love fish and their places. I love reptiles and amphibians and salmon, steelhead and trout and all the things that live with them. I mean it's definitely uh, I don't think there's anyone else in this business that doesn't feel the same way.
Oh yeah. Plus I get to come out to these fantastic rivers fairly often.
(EA: and go fishing)
And go fishing.
All right you're off the hook.
Hey, you can keep asking as many questions as you want. Ok.
I will, I will, but I wanted to do this because we needed to do a big picture and now I'll just bug you. I think you're feet are asleep aren't they?
They're dead yeah.
MS making small talk with GR. GR talking to EA.
Ambi: sounds of the river
Ok this is spaced omnis and Guido has kindly agreed to walk down and do a little casting for us here. Making small talk with Guido.
Ambi: Guido casts line
Ambi: Guido reels and casts line again making a plunk sound
Ambi: Casts line
Ambi: Casts line
Ambi: Casts line
Guido reels in
So do you want me to tell you what I'm doing?
So obviously, this is the Sopochnaya river and the river's high, and it's come up about 2 feet but it's finally crested and now it's going to start going down, so I'm looking for the places in the river where the steelhead are holding and they stop in certain places and when the river is high like it is they are looking to get away from out of the main current and get away from all the little leaves that are flowing down stream. So I'm looking up and down, upstream is a long fast deep section that may have fish in it but I think they're going to be more in the soft water so I look upstream where there's a long deep swift section and then I look downstream and the whole river flattens and widens and goes into a riffle and then it gets very shallow and fast. Well in between the head of the pool and the bottom where the tail out is a slow shallower section, which is kind of the belly of the pool. Actually I'm fishing the tail out of the pool technically where the river starts to slow down, starts to settle down, it's what we call the soft water and I think that's where the steelhead are going to be holding. So what I'm doing, I wait out and I've got my fly rod which is actually a spay rod. It's a floating line and at the end of it is about 15 feet of sinking line and then I've got some leader and then I've got a fly that's a big orange marabou fly with little red eyes on it because I want the whole thing to sink down and the whole idea is I want to cast it out and I lift my line up and I put a little slack in the line and now it's floating downstream and it's floating and its floating and it pulls tight and begins to swing over to my side of the river so my cast is across and I let it sink for a minute and I let it slowly swing over and right now it's right downstream from me and it swung over to my side and then what I do is I pull out another foot of line and I make the same cast so each cast covers a little different arc and because I don't know where the steelhead is going to be lying, I want to show my fly to every square foot of the river in front of me and I do that by making each cast a little bit longer and a little bit longer and with steelheading the beauty of it is that you get into kind of a rhythm with casting and stripping or casting and stepping and swinging the fly and you feel the fly moving through the current and you do this make another cast and all of a sudden something takes you fly and absolutely takes off with unbelievable force and unbelievable power and often the steelhead throw themselves into the air they're extremely strong fish because they just swam across the entire ocean and they're just going to wait all winter in these rivers before they spawn. So they're fat, they're aggressive they're at the peak of their health and they've definitely got an attitude once they've been hooked. Look there that was a leaf. Also there are char in the river, two species that are taking our fly. But we haven't gotten a steelhead yet and I think it's cause the water is so high.
Thanks, you've done this before.
I used to have a fishing show on TV.
(MS: Did you?)
Well, it was like the Wayne's world of fishing shows. Cable access but I did it all through college.
Yeah. Well, you've obviously done this.
Well, I've also taught people how to fish. I mean it's pretty straightforward. But the key thing right now is letting it sink like right now it's sinking. And often I-what I keep doing is starting my cast before the fly has really sunken down and that means I'm not fishing in the fishes zone. When the rivers like this I've got to sink my fly at least two feet down before it starts to swing. So that's the mental game I'm playing. I'm visualizing, is my fly down deep enough or is it riding right below the surface and you're constantly playing with the speed of the fly and how deep its swimming and those two variables are really the main ones and I'm going to cast upstream for a big loop a line in and just let it really sink and often that's what it takes.
A friend of mine described the strike of the steelhead as like an electric shock traveling up your rod and just going through your whole body and that happens enough time and sometimes you know you're around big fish and you're almost afraid when it's going to take your fly.
Ambi: walking sounds
Ambi: Casts line
Ambi: Casts line
Ambi: Casts line
Ambi: tromping through the water and moving to rocks
Ambi: Sounds of wind in the weeds
Ambi: sound of boat (or chainsaw) and wind
MS inside cabin taping sounds of the generator
Inside cabin, everyone talking and eating dinner. Sounds of clinking silverware.
Back to MS and we're going to do some science. Processing some fish.
That's a female. That's the eggs of the steelhead.
Kirill where's the bucket with the mouse or the wolf.
He's counting leave him alone.
These are the miriskits that Jack was explaining of various lengths and describing.
________ one-kilo scale?
One of them should be a one-kilo scale.
And Mick do you have the weight of the female steelhead this morning.
Yes, 242 grams, 242. OK.
580, Fivehundred and eighty grams. No it's here. And here we'll be handling. 80
21, 13, 41, 27, 60, 41, 32, 7, 50, 85, 32, 62, no length of the dorsal fin, 43, 47, 32, 33, er, 43, 51, 42, 166, 132, 190, 1-9-0, 255, 115, 69. And now counting below this. 10, 9, 13, 8, (continues to count out numbers)
Does this double as a garage or something?
I think it is a workroom. Yes.
It's a workroom, some storage area. The stuff storing these nails, instruments.
What do you need?
I'm putting the label.
Ready for what?
For eye sample.
Oh, not for me. Nick?
I'll step up to the plate here.
The sound man is making funny faces over here.
It's not very much horrible to take eye sample by this method comparing to what we are doing with the syringe.
You macerate the tissue with the syringe and then suck it up into the syringe. I'm mostly kidding about doing the boil here but-
Ambi: Cutting sound
Male, muckier male, and put any of the males on figure 4
And that is a pretty mature male?
Not plus. Only Figure 4.
The white milk is all the sperm.
It means the stage of gonad development. 4 means close to mackio.
And this is what number Bonny? SRB
Bonny: SPRB two, and this is a liver sample for¿
For Enzymes, we're studying enzymes diversity.
And it was 330, 331 that's the length?
Bonny: and the weight was 580
So Bonny what about fat?
Yes. I have a fat statement.
Doesn't seem very fat compared to other rainbow¿
Compared to steelhead.
Talking about eyeball
Continuing with dissection Kirill: ¿Stomach is empty, no mouse¿ Writes in notebook
He's counting the pyloric CK, when you're done you can explain to him what that's about.
47. It's also the rind feature within population and _______ so that's why we're counting it. And so what we will need in mussels and the ________.
Are you going to get the weight of the gonads? Or do you not do that? (Kirill: No)
And the last operation that cames from the prehistoric times. Crushing the head.
Ready for the grill.
Do we get to have them for dinner tonight?
Uh¿I don't think that to eat rainbow is a good idea. It's bad meat.
Compared to all of the other great fish around here. They think it doesn't taste so good.
We pay a lot of money for it in the United States.
Bonny: I know I think it's delicious.
MS offers to fry up the fish. Bonny says cook boils everything.
Talk about sounds.
Hi. ¿. What are you looking at Kirill?
The coloration of the adipose fin. Some population of rainbow has a black band around it. Some of them own this spots and I'm just paying attention to it.
Talking about cooking fish again.
END OF DAT