WWF-RUSSIA URGES MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT TO PROTECT MARINE MAMMALS
"The only legal act that provided a special legal regime for protecting habitats of marine mammals, including those on the Red List of Russia, was disabled on June 25 this year," says Tatyana Shuvalova, director of the Regulation of Environmental Protection and Nature Management Program with WWF-Russia. "However, no alternative was offered to replace Order of the Ministry of Fishing of the USSR No. 349 'On approval of regulations on protection and hunting of marine mammals' dated June 30, 1986."
Revocation of the Order nullified bans on economic and other activities in rookeries and adjacent waters. The bans allowed to reduce the level of anxiety in marine animals in their habitats, which is vital to keep their populations healthy and support their natural reproduction.
"For such animals as sea lions and walruses, safe rookeries are a matter of life and death. Timid by nature, these corpulent animals (walrus males weigh up to 2,000 kg, sea lion males up to 1,000 kg) are prone to mass panicking when adults can crush calves to death and injure each other," says Boris Solovyev, chief coordinator of WWF-Russia projects for marine protected areas. "Anything can set walruses panicking, even seemingly most harmless things, such as a ship passing afar, the sound of an aeroplane or boat engine, etc. Besides, the melting ice cover of the Arctic Ocean makes walruses spend more time ashore. This means their rookeries get overcrowded, and mass panicking in overcrowded rookeries inflicts greater losses. Up to 100 thousand animals can gather at a single rookery!"
WWF-Russia warns that with the bans revoked, the well-being of individual populations and "living standards" of all marine mammals, including those on the Red List of Russia, can be severely damaged.
Environmentalists believe that the government should regulate marine mammals' protection within the framework of the updated regulatory mechanism.
Earlier, WWF-Russia brought this issue with the Ministry of Agriculture of Russia that implements state policies and imposes legal regulations concerning the protection of aquatic biological resources. However, the Ministry of Agriculture of Russia replied that the disabled protection areas had been established to protect marine mammals included in the Red List; therefore, the issue falls out of the scope of its office. WWF-Russia believes that the issue should be tackled by the agency. The Fund's specialists ready to provide their expertise to help state agencies develop legal regulation for protecting habitats of marine mammals and are urging to set up an interdepartmental team to solve the problem as soon as possible.