How often do you get a chance to show that fly fishing can change the world?
As a Mongolian company working with Mongolian communities, we are very proud to be known as a conservation vanguard. However, our international angling guests deserve the credit. Our catch and release fly angling guests serve as the motivational catalyst for conservation.
Catch-and-release fly-fishing by ethical international fly anglers is essential to our efforts to protect these rivers and fish. When international anglers fish with us, we can provide jobs and training, purchase local goods and services, pay permit fees, generate community pride and create a host of additional benefits to incentivize conservation. Without sustainable numbers of international fly-fishing guests choosing to travel with Mongolia River Outfitters/Fish Mongolia each year, these rivers and the mighty taimen would likely be lost forever.
In an era when biologists struggle to assign financial value to endangered species—and nature’s blessings have been re-branded as ecosystem services—people who like to catch fish with bits of foam and feather represent a rare demographic.
Nobody has to convince this group that native fish, clean water, and pristine landscapes are precious commodities. In fact, some might rather fore-go the word commodity altogether, given its association with prices and markets, to argue instead that the world’s finest fly fishing destinations are holy places, shrines, temples in which humans have both rights and duties. The right to worship. And the duty to protect.
But like any religion, fly fishing remains bound to certain earthly realities. When the church needs a new foundation, then it’s time to launch a capital campaign. That capital comes partly from the international anglers who visit each autumn. Which is as it should be. Relatively modest sums, allocated wisely, can go a long way in rural Mongolia.” Peter Fong. Head-guide, MRO/FM.
Taimen are an extremely sensitive species and not easy to protect. Taimen once occurred from Hokkaido to the Danube. Wild populations are now reduced to a few isolated pockets in remote places like Mongolia. Without aggressive conservation action supported by the international angling community, these remaining pockets of wild taimen will be lost.
Taimen are top-tier predators, existing on a scale different than nearly all other fresh-water species. Most scientists estimate that the healthiest Mongolian rivers contain no more than twenty (20) adult taimen per kilometer. That is a very low population density if one considers that these same stretches of river likely hold hundreds of trout and grayling. Giant trophy taimen over fifty inches are even more widely dispersed. Only a handful of these great fish inhabit even the best taimen rivers.
Taimen are highly susceptible to direct harvest and changes to water quality. Taimen need vast stretches of pristine water to survive. An adult taimen may utilize over sixty miles (one-hundred kilometers) of river during a single season, moving between spawning, summer, and winter habitats.
Taimen grow slowly and live for a very long time. A single fish will require seven years just to reach sexual maturity. A trophy taimen may be approaching fifty years old. The giant fish you are holding was likely born before the Beatles released the “White Album”! Considering that Mongolian rivers are literally frozen for half of the year, living fifty years is quite an accomplishment.
Fortunately, the rivers where we fish are extremely healthy and getting better. We know this because we have years of data and support a wide variety of science-based research and conservation with some of the world’s best fisheries biologists.
We strongly believe that the solution to keeping these rivers vibrant is to work in unison with local communities to protect the watershed’s natural integrity. To realize this solution, we established legally binding conservation partnerships with nine local communities. The partners – including us – are each obligated to conserve river corridors and protect taimen from any harvest.
Our conservation partnership’s greatest accomplishment is the creation of the world’s first Taimen Sanctuaries, one in eastern Mongolia and second in western Mongolia. Fish Mongolia is responsible for international anglers and conservation within the western Taimen Sanctuary. Mongolia River Outfitters is responsible for the eastern sanctuary. Together, these immense conservation areas protect over 400 miles of two of the world’s most stunning fishing rivers. This is great news for local communities, taimen and taimen anglers.
“Mongolia River Outfitters, working with the international conservation organization WWF, has reached a long-term conservation agreement with the government of Mongolia to protect two major taimen rivers. More than 400 miles of river are now protected as the world’s first taimen sanctuaries.” The Angling Report.
The two Taimen Sanctuaries are the only waters in Mongolia designated both catch/release and fly fishing only. Although encroachment is very limited, the Sanctuaries are patrolled by national, state, and local authorities supported by a host of volunteer community rangers. A number of use restrictions make certain that the habitat upon which the sensitive taimen depend remains undisturbed. This includes prohibiting motorboats, hatcheries, dams/diversions, commercial forestry, permanent tourism infrastructure, and mining within three kilometers of the stream bank.