Conservation work

Pick up your rod. Catch a monster taimen. Help make the world a better place. Mongolia River Outfitters was established in the late 1990s for the specific purpose of catalyzing taimen conservation. Our prime concern is maintaining this amazing fishery and its associated cultural and wilderness values.

Taimen (Hucho taimen) are the world’s largest salmonid. In Mongolia, these top-tier predators can live for more than 50 years and reach lengths of over 60 inches. Although they once inhabited healthy rivers from Europe to Hokkaido, over-harvest and river degradation have devastated their former populations. The remote waters we fish represent one of the species’ few remaining strongholds.

Thanks to the efforts of many concerned individuals and organizations, our rivers are two of Mongolia’s healthiest and most resilient. The fishing for taimen, lenok, and grayling is spectacular, with very little angling pressure. The taimen sanctuary that was established with MRO’s support has become a global conservation model, showing that limited fly-fishing by responsible international anglers can trigger improved fishery management.

Public, Private, NGO Partnership. A decade ago, six local communities (called soums), Mongolia River Outfitters, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), formed a conservation partnership to ensure that the river could continue to sustain healthy populations of taimen.

Anglers as Conservation Partners. None of the partnership’s achievements would have been possible without the generous participation of MRO’s anglers. Many provided technical assistance or graciously donated funds. 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 400 kilometers (250 miles) of river were protected specifically for taimen. The waters within the sanctuary are designated “catch and release,” with single barbless hooks, for all anglers and “fly-fishing only” for international anglers. These are the only waters in Mongolia that forbid hatcheries and motorboats, with 3-kilometer streamside setbacks for 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 kilometers) 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 tools for crimping barbs and clipping double or treble hooks; a streamside education project to help inform anglers about taimen conservation and teach them to safely release taimen; a program to support local rangers with vehicles and uniforms; a college scholarship program for local students; and the creation of six very active fish conservation clubs, with fly-fishing training courses for local anglers.

RARE Campaign. The partnership was very pleased to implement a RARE “Pride” campaign. This impressive effort used 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 successes working with local communities to increase knowledge and concern for taimen conservation.

Anti-Poaching 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. Led by a retired member of Mongolia’s national border patrol, the unit has become an effective deterrent.

Trust Fund. Our motto continues to be “little money, big conservation.” In this spirit, MRO, WWF, and Has Bank established Mongolia’s first trust fund for taimen in 2010. Using donations from individual anglers and funds generated by MRO-sponsored trips, the partnership helps sustain conservation efforts.

Marked Recapture Program. Working with Sudeep Chandra, Zeb Hogan, and other scientists, MRO anglers and guides selectively tag taimen as part of the partnership’s marked-recapture research. Several years ago, we tagged a 34-inch fish. When we caught that same fish two years later, it measured 39 inches!

Award-winning Film. Craig Miller Productions and WWF-USA recently produced a lovely film about the partnership’s taimen conservation efforts. Darron Collins and Jordan McMonagle did a great job of writing, directing, and filming Amur River 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 with several governmental, donor, and non-governmental organizations to promote taimen conservation nationally and internationally. 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. The license fees paid by MRO continue to represent a significant percentage of local government’s annual revenue. MRO also provides important employment and other financial opportunities for dozens of local families. These investments link conservation with economic development and offer tangible incentives for continued stewardship of the fishery, an objective shared by all conservation partners.

Vehicle Restrictions. MRO is working with WWF, The Nature Conservancy, local governments, and border authorities to restrict vehicle use along the river. Mongolian gazelles, great bustards, fish eagles, brown bear, red and roe deer, wolves, and taimen all mingle in this pristine wilderness mosaic of riverine habitats, forested mountains, and rich grasslands. This region is also a critical breeding and rearing habitat for the beautiful and highly endangered white-naped crane.

The Taimen Fund. The Taimen Fund continues the work begun by the Tributary Fund, which assisted local, religious, and scientific leaders in collaborating to manage issues of sustainable community development and wildlife habitat protection. This wonderful group of talented and dynamic people has worked in Mongolia for many, many years. One of their signature projects is the National Taimen Awareness Campaign, supported in part by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund.


Get in touch


If you’re interested in joining one of these amazing adventures, please contact us. We’re more than happy to send additional information or to set up a time to call and talk.