WWF calls for ban on commercial chum salmon fishing to save stocks in the Amur river

Posted on 22 November 2021

WWF backs Governor's plan for stronger measures after 4th disastrous year for salmon spawning in the Amur river
With all signs pointing to yet another catastrophic year for Chum slamon in the Amur river, the Governor of Khabarovsky province, Mikhail Degtyarev, has decided to introduce additional bans on Pacific salmon fishing in order to preserve its stocks in the Amur River.

This step comes after WWF Russia raised concerns about the critically low level of salmon in Amur spawning grounds and called for a temporary ban on commercial chum salmon fishing in the Amur river and its estuary.

Over the past 4 years, volunteers from the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North of Khabarovsky province and independent fish biologists have been working with WWF on the study of the wild salmon stocks reproduction in the Amur River.

In 2020, the average filling of spawning grounds of autumn chum salmon was estimated at 2.6 fish per 100m2 - slightly higher than 0.9 fish in 2019 and 0.1 fish in 2018. All of these are extremely alarming since the normall figure is around 50 fish per 100m2 of spawning grounds.

This year, surveys of spawning grounds of the autumn chum salmon are still ongoing, but it is already clear that the situation is much worse than in 2018: the filling of spawning tributaries of the Gorin, Gur and Anyui Rivers equals zero.

According to Olga Cheblukova, project coordinator on protected areas at WWF-Russia Amur branch, "in recent years, the forecasts of Pacific salmon run in the Amur provided by the Research Institute of Fishery and Oceanographyed exceed the actual salmon resources by several times. After the liquidation of the control and observation stations on the Amur, the calculation of the real number of fish in the spawning grounds by the official fishery science became impossible.”

In 2021, the official fishery science body recommended a catch of 13,000 tonnss of autumn chum salmon in the Amur River, but the fishermen were able to catch less than half - just 5,700 tonnes. Earlier, in 2019 and 2020, the harvest was also around half the forecast.

“Wrong forecasts of salmon run have led to the low chances for fishermen to harvest their legal quota, and the spawning grounds have been empty for 4 years already. People and animals that feed on salmon are left without fish,” added Cheblukova.

Some restrictions on fishing were introduced in 2018 but these have not significantly changed the situation. Today, it is essential to take urgent drastic actions to preserve wild salmon.

According to Governor Degtyarevs Instagram page, “we know that a number of restrictions are in place during fishing season on the Amur River. However, there is a declining trend in catches of autumn chum salmon. In this regard, I have charged the supervising deputy chairman of the Khabarovsky government to present proposals for additional bans on Pacific salmon harvesting aimed at preserving their natural population in the Amur River."

As for WWF-Russia, it proposes the following priority measures for the conservation of wild stocks of the Amur chum salmon:
  • Introduce a ban on commercial fishing of summer and autumn chum salmon in the Amur River and its estuary for at least 4 years until a scientific justification is obtained based on data from field surveys of the main spawning grounds. The number of spawned fish should be taken into account.
  • Ensure conduction of the state environmental expertise of the data that justify the catch volumes for anadromous fish species.
  • Arrange the work on creation of protected fishery zones in important sites of the main spawning tributaries.
Amur river at Gorin river mouth
© Yuri Darman / WWF Russia
Salmon fishing cabin on the Amur river in Russia
© Deposit photos
Happy angler on Amur river, Russia
© Ola Jennersten / WWF-Sweden