Kamchatka Steelhead Project Research and Conservation

The Conservation Angler co-directs and funds our flagship program—the joint Russian-American Kamchatka Steelhead Project, a long-term study of Oncorhynchus mykiss (steelhead and rainbow trout) with Moscow State University and the A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Science. This unique program combines sponsoring anglers with Russian and American scientists collecting biological samples from O. mykiss through catch and release fly fishing. The first annual expeditions were conducted in 1994, making this program one of the longest running studies of steelhead in the world. Data collected has provided the basis for over two dozen scientific papers and important scientific discoveries about the species, especially relationships between anadromous and non-anadromous life histories within and between breeding populations.


Additional scientific partners have included University of Montana Flathead Lake Biological Station, U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, Wild Salmon Center, and U.S. Geological Service. The project is approved under area V of the U.S.-Russian Agreement on the Environment.


Read more about the Kamchatka Steelhead Project and how you can participate here.


What sets The Conservation Angler apart from all other fish conservation organizations is its science and conservation initiative in Siberia. With its origins in the 1994 Kamchatka Steelhead Project, a twenty-year project of the Wild Salmon Center in Portland, Moscow State University, and the University of Montana, The Conservation Angler works to protect wild steelhead, trout, and other salmonids and their ecosystems in Kamchatka, Russia. The 800 mile-long, sparsely populated, Kamchatka peninsula produces up to 25% -30% of the Pacific's salmon and represents one of the last chances to provide permanent protection for entire pristine salmonid ecosystems before they become threatened or extinct. These salmon and trout, locally adapted and untainted by human development, are the building blocks for future restoration efforts.


The program is straightforward. Through catch and release fly fishing, anglers collect biological samples to support the steelhead research project. As fish are captured, the anglers and guides measure length/girth, and determine the sex of the fish. Through statistical methodology, we are able to estimate total abundance and mortality. Since we are the only anglers along 100 miles of water that has received little human impact, our Kamchatka program is the best and, perhaps last, chance to fully understand the population structure, life-history strategies, and migration patterns of wild rainbow trout as well as the impact of our angling on those fish. This knowledge will be essential to recovery efforts around the world where native rainbow trout have been compromised by hatcheries, habitat degradation and angling over-exploitation. Perhaps we will even solve the mystery of why some rainbow trout turn into steelhead and some don’t.


The Kamchatka Steelhead Project combines sponsoring anglers with Russian scientists to achieve critical objectives, including:


  1. Determining the overall abundance of steelhead populations in selected rivers through mark-tag-recapture programs;
  2. Establishing the relationships between angling encounter rates (hook-ups per unit of effort) with general abundance permitting the use of such data in the future as a monitoring methodology for assessing abundance trends
  3. Confirming life history distributions within populations
  4. Providing financial and logistic support for the operation of field bio-stations operated by the Wild Fish and Biodiversity Foundation




Read the 2016 KSP Report



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