Kamchatka, Russia | Where the Salmon Rule, National Geographic Magazine: Poachers Watch Wardens Burn

Poaching is the biggest threat to salmon in Russia – enforcement is virtually non-existent. Two poachers stand by watching as anti-poaching wardens in Kamchatka  torch their caviar-processing facility. This is a small camp made for fishing equipment and a small processing area surrounded by barbed wire to keep out the bears.  A multi-trunked tree was cut up to create a stand for caviar screens that are used to break through the connective tissue and separate individual eggs.  But there is only about 200kg of caviar.

An MI-8 can carry two tons of caviar, and most poachers who pay for these expensive rides fill the helicopter.  A flight in runs about $10,000, and the return a month later is the same. The poachers know not to bring identity papers because if they are caught, fish inspectors usually don’t have the ability to take them back for prosecution. But if passports are found, they can be used to prosecute the poachers in absentia. 

In this case, the wardens decide to destroy the caviar and fishing tent areas leaving the sleeping area because the helicopter may not be back for the poachers for some time.  This will cost the poachers around $25,000 US, and having little or no working capital might make it too difficult for them to come back to do this next year. 

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