Population is growing and [ignorantly] 'corrupting resource/environment potential
critical to continuing human existence' faster than 'inevitable
dirigiste heurism' [SCIENCE] is growing to contain that population and
(-from Human Nature and Continuing Human
July 4, 2007 All Things Considered, National
Poaching in Far Eastern Russia Threatens Ecosystem
Gregory Feifer, NPR
Russia's untamed, Far Eastern peninsula of Kamchatka is one of the last great
spawning grounds of Pacific wild salmon.
But grinding poverty and corruption are feeding a culture of
poaching that's endangering not only some salmon species, but also the region's
No Place on Earth like Kamchatka
Kamchatka is a spectacular land of active volcanoes and hot, spurting geysers.
Rare Steller's sea eagles and the world's densest population of brown bears live in stunning landscapes of snow-peaked
mountains and rivers.
To the east of this isolated peninsula lies the Sea of
On the coast, murky waves lap the dark, volcanic sand of this
barren beach, as warmly dressed fishermen in rubber boats cast nets into the
They're catching halibut, but under the piles of halibut, you
can glimpse something out of season and illegal to catch: wild sockeye
Map of Kamchatka
The isolated peninsula of Kamchatka is located in Russia's Far Eastern region.
Lindsay Mangum, NPR
(More pictures below(*1)
A Culture of Poaching
Several miles inland up the slow-flowing Bystraya River, past flat tundra that
stinks from piles of rotting fishheads, lies the crumbling village of Ust-Bolsheretsk. Here fishermen eat salted salmon and drink tea in trailers by the
Igor, who won't give his last name, says everyone on
Kamchatka poaches fish.
"There's no work here," he says. "Only fish. Everyone feeds
his family however he can, and that's by catching fish. If you don't do it, you
Every year, millions of salmon fight their way up the
Bolsheretsk and other rivers. When poachers deplete one species, they move on
Kamchatka's rich natural beauty starkly contrasts with its
human poverty. On the eastern, Pacific coast, the decrepit capital
Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky appears to have been forgotten by time. Crumbling,
Soviet concrete-slab buildings line the lush hills dropping down to the water.
The once-bustling port is now mostly idle and crammed with rusting ships and
scrap metal. Around 20 fishing trawlers are moored out at sea, impounded for
Regional officials say only 10 percent of the fish caught in
and around Kamchatka is poached, and fishing department chief Alexander Krengel
says the administration is tackling the problem.
"This year, we've set up a headquarters to coordinate a
crackdown on poaching by various law-enforcement agencies," Krengel says. "It's
enabled us to stabilize the situation."
Most Kamchatkans dispute the government's figures. Valery
Vorobiev is the head of Akros, one of Kamchatka's largest fishing companies. He
says criminal gangs poach at least half the fish sold from Kamchatka.
"Poaching is ruinous for salmon," he says. "In Kamchatka
alone, more than 100,000 tons of salmon are poached a year. And much of it is
used only for caviar. The fish are slashed open and
Vorobiev says some salmon species have declined by half in
recent years. Inland, criminal groups organize brigades of 15 to 20 men who are
flown upriver by helicopter to poach. They're depriving Kamchatka's bears of
their natural prey, forcing them to wander near human settlements to look for
A Corrupt Bureaucracy
Environmental activist Andrei Abikh says Kamchatka's industrial-scale poaching
is only possible because of serious corruption among officials whose job it is
to protect fish.
"It's a racket that goes all the way to the top. Everyone
wants a cut of the profits. It's gotten to the point where police, secret
service, even judges are involved in poaching salmon from our rivers," Abikh
In the town of Elizovo near the capital, fish vendor Vadim
Chernov says 90 percent of salmon sold at the market is poached.
"The industry could easily be legalized, it's just that that
would eat into the authorities' profits from bribes and fines," Chernov says.
"Most of our fish goes abroad, so locals are forced to poach, and we have no
choice but to buy fish from them. That's just not right."
Locals say as long as Kamchatka is run by a corrupt
bureaucracy, the region's unique natural resources will continue to be
plundered. Environmental experts say that could lead to collapse not only for
Kamchatka's ecosystem, but also the Pacific's entire wild salmon population.
Poaching in Far Eastern Russia Threatens Ecosystem
July 4, 2007 from All Things Considered
ROBERT SIEGEL, host: You’ll need a passport and a lot else this summer
if you’re among the visitors to one of the world’s great natural wonders. It’s
Russia’s remote peninsula of Kamchatka on the country’s Far Eastern Pacific
NPR’s Gregory Feifer traveled nine time zones from Moscow to
send back this report.
GREGORY FEIFER: It’s called the land of fire and ice. Kamchatka boasts
nearly 30 active volcanoes, stunning snow-peaked mountains and a unique
population of salmon, bears and other wildlife. There are also hot sulfurous
geysers. Underground, magma heats water that shoots out of the ground in the
peninsula’s Valley of the Geysers. It’s one of the biggest tourist draws on
this 750-mile mostly pristine peninsula roughly the size of California. In
early June, a huge mudslide buried part of the valley threatening to turn it
into a big lake. Local geologist Udmala Asipenko(ph) says the mudslide has
irrevocably changed the valley.
Ms. UDMALA ASIPENKO (Geologist): (Through translator) But it’s the
normal geological process. You can’t talk about it as a good or bad thing. In
any case, there are new geysers forming. It’s all part of a natural process of
FEIFER: There are other sites to see on Kamchatka such as swimming holes
in the village of Paratunga, where locals and some of the 8,000 foreign
tourists who come here each year, lull in hot thermal springs. Angela
Tungki(ph) is visiting from Moscow with her 7-year-old daughter Katya(ph).
Ms. ANGELA TUNGKI (Tourist): (Speaking foreign language)
FEIFER: She says there’s no place like this in the world. In Soviet
days, Kamchatka was a close military zone with a strategic submarine port. That
helped preserve the region’s isolation. Even today, there’s only one main road
leading up the peninsula and it isn’t even connected to the mainland. Among regular American visitors here today are bear hunters
who pay $10,000 for each brown bear they kill. For others, there’s hiking,
heliskiing on mountains without chairlifts and boating on the Pacific
(Soundbite of boat motor)
I’m riding in a Zodiac dinghy along the coast of Kamchatka. The landscape is
very luscious, very green. There are lots of rocks visible. It’s dark volcanic
rock, of course. This land was formed through volcanoes and one would see
snow- covered volcanoes in the distance, but it’s so foggy, you can only see about
half a mile.
The weather is one of the biggest problems for tourists on Kamchatka. Many of
the scenic sites here are accessible only by helicopters. They’re often
grounded by rain and fog that can last for weeks. And there are other
Helicopter rides cost hundreds of dollars, double the amount elsewhere in
Russia because one company with the license to fly holds the monopoly. Most
hotels are shoddy and overpriced. And just getting to Kamchatka is a trial.
Flights from Anchorage, Alaska no longer operate. The easiest way to get here
is to take the world’s longest domestic flight, nine hours from Moscow. Tourist
company head Yevgeny Karatayev(ph) said the conditions here probably won’t
change any time soon.
Mr. YEVGENY KARATAYEV (Tourist Company Owner): (Through translator)
Kamchatka attracts a certain type of tourist who can afford to come here for
the wilderness and is willing to put up with basic accommodations. It’s a
limited number of people. If we were to build more hotels here, they’d just end
FEIFER: Fishing makes up the bulk of Kamchatka’s economy. Many locals
are poor and most of Kamchatka’s male population engages in poaching that
conservationists say is threatening stocks of salmon, crab and other fish.
Environmentalists are also concerned about pollution from mining in the north
of the peninsula and the recent discovery of oil off its western coast. Also
under serious threat is Kamchatka’s indigenous Itelmen culture long suppressed
by the Soviet Union.
(Soundbite of woman singing)
FEIFER: At a recreation of a native dugout hut, Itelmen dressed in
animal skins and beads perform songs originally sung by their nomadic hunter
and fishermen ancestors. Today, they say, what little of the old culture has
left helps make Kamchatka unique.
Gregory Feifer, NPR News.