Sakhalin Salmon: Double the Damage

Posted by David Gordon

Sakhalin’s economy depends on fishing.  Take Aniva District, for example:  one fish inspector told me that 70-80% of the local economy is tied to fishing.  And most of that is for salmon.

So it’s no surprise that one of the major concerns for people on Sakhalin about oil and gas development is its impacts to salmon.  Shell has been roundly criticized by environmentalists and even the Russian government for the impacts to salmon spawning streams from its pipeline construction.

Under Russian law, companies have to pay for damages to natural resources.  So Shell provided $11 million to the Sakhalin Fisheries Agency as compensation for its damage to salmon.  Regardless of the fact that this amount is too low, I was most amazed about how the Sakhalin Fisheries Agency then decided to use this money.  The Fisheries Agency used the compensation to reconstruct an enormous fish hatchery on the Taranai River.  The reconstruction included building a barrier that blocks fish from going upriver so that all the salmon can be taken at the hatchery.  Essentially, this will destroy the fisheries in the upper part of the watershed.

Shell and the Sakhalin Fisheries Agency should know better.  It’s much smarter to spend money to protect healthy wild salmon habitat than to build hatcheries that just lead to more threats to wild salmon.  Instead, they’ve just doubled the damage to salmon from Sakhalin-II and oil and gas development.  In the indigenous Ainu language, Taranai River means “Fish River.”  Too bad this fish river is being killed.

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