Conserving the River: How often do you get a chance to show that fly fishing can change the world? Mongolia River Outfitters was established in the late 1990's for the specific purpose of catalyzing taimen conservation. Our prime concern is maintaining this amazing fishery and the associated cultural and wilderness values.
Taimen (Hucho hucho taimen) are the world's largest salmonid. In Mongolia, these top-tier predators will live for more than fifty years and reach lengths of over sixty inches. They once inhabited healthy rivers from Europe to Hokkaido, but taimen became isolated and rare as over-harvest and river degradation slowly devastated populations. The remote waters we fish became one of the species' few remaining strongholds.
Because of the efforts of many concerned persons and organizations, these waters remain some of Mongolia's healthiest and most productive. The fishing for taimen, lenok, and trout is spectacularly good with very little angling pressure. The Taimen Sanctuary established with the support of MRO has become a global conservation model, showing that limited fly-fishing by just a few responsible international anglers can trigger improved fishery management.
Public, Private, NGO Partnership: Mongolia River Outfitters, six local communities (Soums) and the international conservation organization, WWF, formed a conservation partnership to help make certain the river continues to sustain healthy populations of taimen.
Anglers as Conservation Partners: None of the partnership's achievements would be possible without the participation and generous contributions of MRO anglers. Many have provided technical assistance and many have graciously donated funds to help these efforts. Simply by fishing with MRO, you are supporting and investing in local communities and taimen conservation. Thank you!
Patagonia's World Trout Initiative: The partnership's fisheries conservation program is supported in part by Patagonia's World Trout Initiative. We are very proud of the recognition and investment made by this prestigious organization.
Taimen Sanctuary: Perhaps the partnership's greatest accomplishment to date is the establishment of the world's first Taimen Sanctuary. In 2008, over three hundred contiguous kilometers (250 miles) of river became protected specifically for taimen. The waters within the sanctuary are designated "catch and release" for all anglers and "fly-fishing only" for all international anglers. All anglers must use single barbless hooks. These are the only waters that outlaw hatcheries and motorboats and the only that benefit from three kilometer streamside set backs for all mining, commercial forestry, and permanent tourism infrastructure development.
We are very proud that the world's second Taimen Sanctuary was established at our sister operation, Fish Mongolia. There are now nearly 400 miles (650 km) of pristine Mongolia rivers protected for taimen.
Conservation Programs The conservation partnership has initiated several innovative programs over the years. This includes a "pliers program" to supply local residents with pliers for crimping barbs and clipping hooks; a streamside angler education project to help inform about taimen conservation and how to safely release taimen; supporting local rangers with vehicles and uniforms; establishing a college scholarship program; initiating; and, supporting the creation of six very active local fish conservation clubs and fly-fishing training courses for local anglers.
RARE Campaign: The partnership is very pleased to be implementing a RARE "Pride" campaign. This impressive effort uses Taimen as the focus species for a massive public awareness and education program within the Sanctuary. The program was initiated in 2009 with Gana from WWF-Mongolia and Brooke Sadowsky from RARE leading the charge. The program has had some wonderful success working with local communities to increase knowledge and concern for taimen conservation.
Anti-Poaching Enforcement Unit: Using the same principles and practices employed to halt Argali poaching in western Mongolia, the partnership has created an anti-poaching unit to monitor and enforce wildlife law compliance throughout the watershed. Lead by a retired member of Mongolia's national border patrol, the unit is an effective deterrent.
Trust Fund: Our motto continues to be "little money, big conservation". In this spirit, MRO, WWF and Has Bank established in 2010 Mongolia's first trust fund for taimen. With donations from anglers and MRO sponsored conservation weeks, the partnership manages the funds to help sustain conservation efforts.
Marked Re-Capture Program: Working with Drs. Sudeep Chandra, Zeb Hogan and other scientists, MRO clients selectively tag taimen as part of the partnership's marked-recapture research. A couple of years ago, we tagged a thirty-four inch fish. We caught the fish a year later and it measured thirty-nine inches, nearly ten-percent growth in exactly twelve months.
Award Winning Film: Craig Miller Productions and WWF/USA recently produced a lovely film about the partnership's taimen conservation efforts. Dr. Darron Collins and Mr. Jordan McMonagle did a great job of writing, directing, and filming. "Amur Basin: Creating a Lasting Sanctuary for the Mighty Taimen". The film was a featured finalist at the 2010 Jackson Hole Film Festival and won the Best Non-Broadcast category at the 2010 International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula, Montana.
National Policies: We work nationally and internationally with several government, donor and non-government organizations to promote taimen conservation. We actively support the improvement, understanding and enforcement of Mongolia's fisheries policies. The Mongolian Government deserves high praise for recently designating all taimen fishing "catch and release".
Economic Incentives: Fishing fees paid by MRO continue to represent a major percentage of local government's annual revenue. MRO provides important employment and other financial opportunities for dozens of local families. These investments link conservation with development and offer tangible incentives for continued stewardship of the fishery, an objective shared by all three conservation partners.
Vehicle Restrictions: MRO is working with WWF, The Nature Conservancy, local government and border authorities to restrict vehicle use along the river. Mongolian gazelle, Great Bustards, fish eagles, brown bear, red and roe deer, wolves and taimen all mingle in this pristine wilderness mosaic of riverine, forested mountains and rich grasslands. This region is critical breeding and rearing habitat for the beautiful and highly endangered White-naped crane.
The Tributary Fund: By invitation from global partners, The Tributary Fund assists religious, scientific and local leaders to collaborate and manage issues of sustainable community development and wildlife habitat protection. This wonderful group of talented and dynamic people has worked in Mongolia for several years. We are pleased that they are expanding efforts to collaborate with the partnership to help conserve the Taimen Sanctuary.