Darron Collins asked two questions when he was in Mongolia: Why were the taimen disappearing? And what can we do about it? This seemingly simple outline would not only solve a great ecological issue, but have lasting effects on the community Collins and his colleagues saved from disaster.
Taimen are a massive species of fish that w dying out. Their geographic location used to span from Hungary to the Sea of Japan. This area has shrunk over the past hundred years. To solve his mystery of the cause of the disappearing fish, Collins and his team found themselves in the last place taimen were known to live: northern Mongolia.
The community near the Onon river in Mongolia noticed that helicopters and large off-road vehicles would be in their pristine landscape. The environmentalists concluded that sport fishing was the root cause of the shrinking taimen population. Their solution was to develop a fly fishing trend in the area. This would help because fly fishing is catch and release fishing. Instead of hanging the fish as trophies, fly fishers would take a picture and leave the animal unharmed.
This trend of fly fishing ultimately showed the locals that taimen are a species worth preserving. Their new jobs as guides, cooks, and drivers along the river depended on their existence. The power of economics and incentives the team of environmentalists was able to stabilize and eventually grow back the population of taimen.
So many people in the community near the Onon river owe their jobs to Collins and his use of economic incentives. They were not the only ones who benefited from his curiosity however. The hundreds of people who now enjoy fly fishing and the new federally mandated preserve in northern Mongolia also have Collins to thank.
The environment is now a better place because of the desire to find a solution to an ecological issue. Even though taimen might not be pretty, they are a part of a huge environmental chain and their preservation is important. Maintaining genetic diversity by preserving as many species as we can on Earth is our top priority.
One thing that stuck with me was Collin’s advice to young environmental scientists: “Local people respect their environment and they know so much about it, so learn from them.” I think this is a great rule that we often overlook. Collin’s really lives by his own advice, as his solution was to empower locals through economics.
The solution to an environmental issue via economics and putting value on nature surprised me. I think this is a really realistic way to save species in the future. Collin’s take away was that all of his hands on experiences in college led to his curiosity and success in his career. He ended up benefiting so many with his unorthodox method of empowering locals.