Islands and their inhabitants
The Commander Islands are the breeding grounds of species that have been listed in the Red Book of Russia. These include: Mediy island Arctic fox, northern sea otter, Western Pacific harbor seal, gyrfalcon, and peregrine falcon. Along the coastline of the islands, there are about 300 thousand marine mammals: Western Pacific harbor seals, sea otters, Steller sea lions. All of them are under special protection, not only in the territory of the Commander Reserve, but also in all other areas of their habitats. In contrast to Western Pacific harbor seals and sea otters, Steller sea lions undertake seasonal migrations, which make their numbers on the islands fluctuate throughout the year. Prolonged migrations in the ocean make Steller sea lions more vulnerable to human activity. It is not uncommon to see a «necklace» of torn fishing gear and plastic tapes on young and adult individuals. The fishing gear thrown into the sea and the packaging elements are relatively safe for adults, however, they pose a serious threat to the lives of youngster that have not yet reached sea lions’ maximum size. That is why WWF is actively engaged in studying the possibilities of rendering assistance to the Red Book species. Practice of releasing marine mammals from scraps of nets is known in Alaska. In Russia, the specifics of legal framework in terms of tranquilizers’ turnover do not allow to solving this issue promptly.
The high ornithological value of the Commander Islands lies in the fact that there are endangered species on this territory, as well as massive concentrations of shore and seabirds in nesting, wintering and migratory grounds. 206 species of birds have been noted for Commander Islands, some of them are listed in the Red Book. There are large bird colonies along the coast of the islands, with the total number of about 1 million of bird individuals. WWF cooperates with the «Longline Fishery» association and fishing companies, persuading fishermen to use streamers — special scaring devices that significantly reduce the number of seabird deaths in longline fisheries.
In 2004, WWF organized two expeditions to the Commander Islands, during which the sea zone was patrolled, a satellite monitoring system has been tested, bird colonies and sea mammal rookeries have been surveyed, and two films about the unique nature of the Commander Islands have been filmed.