Exploring pristine Russia

[media-credit name=”Reel Water Productions | The Signpost” align=”alignright” width=”400″][/media-credit]Although it has been close to a year and a half since Jeffrey Hazboun, the scientist-explorer student from Utah State University, was dropped off by a helicopter on top of some bear tracks at the base of a volcano, his expedition’s impact is still reverberating.

Hazboun, who spoke at Weber State University on Wednesday, attributed the lasting impact of his adventure to Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula to being filmed for the “Russian Giants” episode of Monster Fish on the National Geographic Channel.

The idea for the expedition came from Robert Bart, a friend of Hazboun’s. Bart said he hopes people will become more aware of environmental issues.

“We (hoped that we) could maybe get attention to Kamchatka by being kayakers,” Bart said. “It’s a great hook. If people will see a picture of a kayak running something and its beautiful and impressive, they will be more likely to read the story as well. So our hope was to be able to tell the story about how incredible Kamchatka is as well as how important it is ecologically.”

Hazboun and the group he traveled with knew their goal was not merely to find out ways to conserve, but it was “really changing public and institutional desires for conservation.”

For this cause, Hazboun has been spreading the word about Kamchatka and what he described as a region that is still relatively untouched by humans.

“Anytime you do a web search on Kamchatka or talk to anyone who’s been there, what comes up more than anything is fish and salmon resources and the Kamchatka brown bear,” Hazboun said. “And we realized that this was a very wild place. People kept saying it’s like Alaska was 75 years ago. It’s this magical place, and there’s no other place like it for salmon and for fish and for wildness.”

Kamchatka is home to one-fourth of the world’s spawning sockeye salmon. Hazboun found that because of this poaching for salmon roe is a huge problem.

“They drag chain-link fence across the river and will catch every salmon that’s going up the river,” Hazboun described. “So, they basically kill an entire year’s run from a given river, and they just go on to the next river and the next river. They don’t take the bodies, they only take the eggs.”

Bart expressed his wishes for Kamchatka’s environment and suggested that the government in Russia should develop a sustainability plan.

“The illegal poaching for salmon roe is a billion dollar industry there,” Bart said. “I would love to see some sort of sustainable salmon plan come out that had local buy-in.”

Hazboun noted that merely forcing sustainability laws would not be effective approach.

“I think going back to the idea of globalization, the difficulty becomes in the fact that we can’t tell Russia what to do,” Hazboun said. “We have to convince the people in Russia . . . in some way, that’s not very pushy. We can bring them to here to show them what we’ve done. We can bring people to there to show what an amazing place it is.”

Therese Grijalva, a WSU professor of economics, attended the presentation and said she saw Hazboun’s message as a movement to educate people so they may in turn educate others.

“When you educate, you find experience,” Grijalva said.