Last week, a group of people from Russia came to visit the Kenai Peninsula. They were here not to discuss the geopolitical situation, but something more important — Pacific salmon conservation and management.
The group of visitors included conservationists, politicians, sport fishing advocates and heads of non-governmental organizations from three salmon-dependent regions in Russia. While on the Kenai Peninsula, the group met to exchange ideas and ask questions of their counterparts from this area, including Alaska Department of Fish and Game scientists, Alaska Wildlife Troopers, Kenai River Sportfishing Association and Trout Unlimited members.
The exchange was facilitated by the Wild Salmon Center, a non-governmental organization based in Oregon. The exchange is meant to be both cultural and educational, giving delegates the opportunity to learn about salmon issues from a different perspective — though many of the issues faced are similar, such as balancing development with habitat protection.
The the people and cultures may be different, the shared resource provides a valuable opportunity to share ideas.
“On the international stage, there’s a chess game that gets played, but then there’s just that very real day-to-day functioning between local governments, industry and non-profits. People are so much more similar than they are different on that level,” Ricky Gease, executive director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, told the Clarion.
“The more we know, the better understanding we will have of each other and if we are speaking about this in philosophical terms. … Let’s take two countries, for example the U.S. and Russia — we have many differences. Differences in religion, politics, language etc., but there are points that do not have any contradictions, for example conserving shared resources. It unites, it doesn’t divide us. So let’s go forward with this,” said Aleksander Kulikov, the director of the Khabarovsk Wildlife Fund.
It’s heartening to see this kind of cooperation at the grass-roots level. We hope to see these types of exchange programs continue and expand. There’s a lot we can learn from each other — if we’re willing to listen and to share.