The Kamchatka Peninsula is a relatively untouched area of the Russian Far East. The population is sparse: less than half a million people inhabit this region, which is the size of California. Closed to outsiders throughout the Soviet period, Kamchatka has been open to visitors only for the past two decades. Because of these many factors, the environmental community in Kamchatka is incredibly small and generally lacks capacity and long-term funding sources. WWF Russia’s Kamchatka Field Office has a modest staff of five and works to build environmental capacity in local partner NGOs, in the fisheries program of the local university (Kamchatka State Technical University), and in community-based activism through public process participation. The seabird by-catch mitigation work was an early win by WWF in Kamchatka, particularly because collaboration with the fishing industry is a unique role for an NGO in the Russian Far East.
Great opportunities, as well as huge roadblocks, face the future of environmental work in Russia. The fishing industry of Kamchatka is only now becoming part of the global market place, with a budding awareness of sustainable fishing practices just beginning to take hold. Indeed, the first fishery on the Kamchatka Peninsula was Marine Stewardship Council certified in September 2012. However; most harvesting companies, many of which are former Soviet fishing collectives, are motivated primarily by profit and much less so by global image, sustainable management, legal requirements, enforcement and penalties, or the precautionary principle. This is why WWF seeks to engage with harvester companies regarding the increased profit margin they can achieve by practicing by-catch mitigation.
The political context of environmental work in Kamchatka is delicate. Because foreigners are not encouraged to engage in environmental issues, it is especially important that WWF Russia maintain an office in Kamchatka. WWF has access and relationships with political officials and high level governmental representatives both in Kamchatka and in Moscow. WWF believes that the engagement of government officials at all levels continues to be an important avenue for policy change and cannot be neglected.
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