The Taimen Fund was established in 2013 to continue earlier efforts by The Tributary Fund, ecotourism fly fishing companies, and international anglers to protect Mongolia’s wild taimen. Whereas taimen were once fishable by permit in Mongolia as recently as the mid-2000s, conservation efforts have since resulted in comprehensive taimen laws and regulations. In December 2005, the Mongolian government registered the taimen as a “rare” species, a species whose population is in severe decline and threatened with extinction. Since 2008, the law has mandated catch and release practice and required the use of single barbless hooks for all anglers fishing for taimen.

In the early 1990s, initial conservation efforts began when ecotourism fly fishing companies first arrived in Mongolia following its peaceful transition to democracy. Fly fishing outfitters Hovsgol Travel/Sweetwater Travel, Mongolia River Outfitters/Nomadic Journeys, and Fish Mongolia/Nomadic Journeys all began successful conservation-focused operations in highly productive taimen watersheds. All three outfitters have implemented successful taimen conservation strategies in their respective watersheds.

Eg-Uur Watershed

In 2003, along the Eg-Uur watershed, Hovsgol Travel/Sweetwater Travel began hosting international fisheries scientists to initiate baseline data collection on taimen. By gathering data in the pilot Eg-Uur taimen watershed, this initiative produced new information on taimen life history, population, and conditions for optimal migration.

The fruits of this initiative resulted in new possibilities for improved local watershed management and species protection. The Taimen Conservation Fund, a Mongolian-based NGO, has helped set up taimen outreach activities such as "Taimen Open Day" festivals in the Eg-Uur on behalf of local communities. The Tributary Fund, the predecessor of The Taimen Fund, also worked to bolster a strong program of outreach. The Tributary Fund initiated community engagement programs, including a children’s taimen education camp and local taimen science workshops, in the Eg-Uur.

Onon-Balj Watershed

In 2008, along the Onon-Balj watershed of the Onon and Balj rivers, the world’s first taimen sanctuary was established due to the efforts of a conservation partnership, originally consisting of Mongolia River Outfitters/Nomadic Journeys, WWF Mongolia and six local communities, whose purpose was to ensure that the Onon river could sustain healthy populations of taimen. Within taimen sanctuaries, all fishing is strictly regulated with communities, government agents and the fly-fishing operator working in concert. The waters within the sanctuaries are designated “catch and release” for all anglers and “fly-fishing only” for all international anglers. All anglers must use single barbless hooks. Furthermore, these waters forbid hatcheries and motorboats, with 3-kilometer streamside setbacks for mining, commercial forestry, and permanent tourism infrastructure development. Angler numbers within the sanctuaries are strictly regulated to maintain both the quality of the fishery and the quality of the fishing experience.

In 2009, this conservation partnership organized the RARE Mongolia Pride Campaign. The campaign organized a massive public awareness campaign and educational program within the sanctuary, promoting taimen as an integral part of Mongolia’s national heritage and as a key to watershed conservation. The project reached out to local anglers, transforming local “poachers” into river guardians. The campaign communicated the economic potential of community-managed conservation areas, including stewardship of the watershed, along with the cultural and environmental significance of protecting Mongolia’s most charismatic fish and indicator species, the taimen. The Onon-Balj watershed now benefits from broad-based community support for taimen conservation. Today, “Fishing Clubs” partner with WWF, Mongolia River Outfitters/Nomadic Journeys and local and national government agencies to promote conservation and to enforce strict fishing and access regulations.

Delger Murun Watershed

In the Delger Murun watershed, which was designated as the location of the world’s second taimen sanctuary, Fish Mongolia/Nomadic Journeys has supported numerous community conservation projects, hosted taimen educational workshops with local herders and community members and organized a Spirit of the River campaign to reach international and domestic anglers through educational outreach in the provincial capital of Khovsgol Aimag and the Chinggis Khan International Airport at Ulaanbaatar in 2011. In 2010, Fish Mongolia/Nomadic Journeys collaborated with the National University of Mongolia to host graduate students in a long-term population assessment of the Delger Murun river, expanding educational opportunities in fisheries management and increasing the amount of biological data on taimen.

The Taimen Fund

The Tributary Fund, the predecessor of the Taimen Fund, hosted the first comprehensive taimen conservation meetings in 2010. The two Taimen Summits, one in the United States and one in Mongolia, included scientists, outfitters and stakeholders. In 2011, the U.S.-based non-profit Wild Salmon Center facilitated a Taimen Workshop in association with the annual Society for Conservation Biology symposium in New Zealand, where stakeholders gathered to identify research priorities, issues and collaborative actions. The need for public outreach rose to the top of the list and remains a priority of The Taimen Fund today.

In 2012, The Tributary Fund kicked off the “National Mongolia Taimen Awareness Campaign,” with support from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and the Taimen Conservation Alliance; in 2010, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund had awarded grants to The Tributary Fund, now The Taimen Fund, to support the campaign. So far, the national campaign has accomplished a great deal, including: Broad distribution of brochures and logos and workshops in several taimen watersheds; the creation of new fishing clubs; the publication of articles and broadcasting of television interviews by media outlets with national reach; the installation of posters at fishing access sites and two major airports; as well as pre- and post-campaign survey metrics, measuring attitudinal shifts as a result of the campaign. Furthermore, the national pride campaign targeted not only taimen anglers and residents in taimen habitats, but also built a form of national messaging about the importance of maintaining intact river systems so as to provide cultural, economic, and ecological benefits for the benefit of all of Mongolia. As a result of these multifaceted efforts to protect taimen, the rare species is today the national pride of Mongolia. Prior to this National Taimen Conservation Campaign, there was no organized effort to facilitate unified national action.

More recently, The Taimen Fund serves as fiscal sponsor and manager of this national campaign, which would not exist without its many partners. Since 2015, The Taimen Fund has also supported the efforts of Wild Salmon Center to conserve wild taimen rivers in the Russia Far East.