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THE CONSERVATION ANGLER - Research and Science

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The Kamchatka Rainbow Trout Project is a center-piece of The Conservation Angler conservation programs. This is a long-term study of Kamchatka rainbow trout undertaken with KamchatNIRO and other local scientific participants. The study, to be conducted initially in the Zhupanova river watershed, aims to determine: (a) Overall abundance of rainbow trout (how many fish); (b) Life history structure of the population; (c) Genetic profile; (d) Natural year-to-year mortality; and, (e) Hooking mortality.

The Trout Project focuses on rainbow trout and steelhead as icons of healthy river ecosystems with naturally intact biodiversity. Effective protection of biodiversity requires solid scientific data describing species distribution and abundance, including local populations. Not only it is important to know how patterns of species distributions vary within regions (e.g., from one river to another) but also it is important to document population dynamics in relation to environmental (weather, predation) and human (harvest, pollution) controls. Only long-term comprehensive biologic monitoring of species populations in relation to potential controls can provide such knowledge.

Long-term data about population dynamics from this study will contribute significantly to sport-fishing management. For example, there is little scientific evidence on hooking-related mortality, in part, because study projects are not able to isolate hooking mortality from other causes. As fly anglers, we to tend the think of our sport as low impact, but this may not be so. For instance, if hooking mortality is only 5% and individual fish were to be hooked only once a year, fly fishing would reduce the abundance of the largest trout (nine-eleven year old fish) by about 40% -- hardly an insignificant impact. Because of the controlled conditions on our rivers (no other anglers and few if any other anthropogenic impacts), we will have a much greater ability to measure the impact of catch and release angling. We anticipate being able to differentiate mortality by fly type. This knowledge will help us develop management regimes which preserve the full range of natural variation of rainbow trout/steelhead while still enabling our grandchildren to have the same angling experience we enjoy.

The program is straight forward. Anglers, practicing catch and release fly fishing, will be the principal source of data collection. As fish are captured, the anglers and guides will measure length/girth, and determine the sex of the fish. Through statistical methodology, we will be 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 donít.

SCIENCE: Kamchatka Steelhead Project In 2010, in cooperation with A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of Russian Academy of Science, The Conservation Angler sponsored a resumption of the Kamchatka Steelhead Project combining sponsoring anglers with Russian scientists to:

  • Determine the overall abundance of steelhead populations in selected rivers through mark-tag-recapture programs;
  • Establish 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
  • Confirm life history distributions within populations
  • Provide financial and logistic support for the operation of field biostations operated by the Wild Fish and Bio-Diversity Foundation

The Conservation Angler seeks a limited number of sponsor/anglers for the 2011 field season (September/October) which will conduct further field research on the Kvachina, Snotalvayam, and Utkholok rivers. Availability is extremely limited. Call for details 1-425 742 4651