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“Shantar Islands” National Park established in the Russian Far East

30 december 2013
The Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation issued on the New Year's Eve announced the establishment of “Shantar Islands” National Park in Khabarovsky Province.

It took more than 15 years of hard work and efforts with an active participation of WWF experts.

Dmitry Medvedev, the Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation signed the Decree № 1304 on 30.12.2013.

“Shantar Islands” National Park is established on a territory of ​​515,500 hectares. It includes 241 thousand hectares of forest lands and adjacent waters of the Sea of Okhotsk with an area of ​​274 thousand hectares.

15 years ago, WWF began the process of creating a federal protected area on Shantarsky archipelago in the Sea of ​​Okhotsk. The ecological and economic assessment of the future national park was prepared by Alexander Kulikov, head of the Khabarovsky Wildlife Foundation. WWF coordinator Yury Bersenev participated in the expedition to the islands to conduct a feasibility study for the future park. WWF-Russia Marine Program initiated taking under protection the sea area around the islands for the preservation of aquatic resources and the last population of bowhead whales which come to this area for feeding. There are large spawning grounds for salmon in the rivers of the archipelago, and the Srednyaya River is the only place on the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk which is the habitat for rainbow trout (mikizha), the fish species listed in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation, a unique Shantar population which needs a special protection due to limited numbers. The history of the national park creation has been difficult. It took a long time until the type of the new protected area was approved by the government. During this period the provincial level decisions were made three times. Then there were problems with the fishing grounds. And finally, misty archipelago received a status of protected area.

“The National Park will be one of the pearls of the Pacific necklaces of Russia, which will be visited by ocean cruise liners along with the Commander Islands and Kuril Islands Nature Reserves. Big colonies of seabirds, seal rookeries and concentration of brown bears, more than 100 nests of ocean eagles, waterfalls of 10 to 100 meters height, sharp orange-red cliffs, bowhead whales, all this treasure will be protected, but available for eco-tourism, which makes no harm to the unique nature of the archipelago”, - says Yury Darman, head of WWF-Russia Amur branch.

“It is difficult to overestimate the importance of “Shantar Islands” National Park establishment, - says Polina Zhbanova, Protected Areas Program Coordinator at WWF Russia. - Creation of the national park on December 30 became a terrific Christmas gift for the entire team of specialists who worked on this project all these years”.

The growing concern of experts was caused by reported information about uncontrolled hunting and fishing on the Islands. Now, with the official conservation status, there is every reason to expect a solution to this problem.

On March 2013 the shelf of Shantar Islands was recognized a water area of ​​high ecological and biological value according to the official meetings of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Moscow, which is again an evidence of the uniqueness of the region on a global scale.

The map of «Shantar Islands» National Park
© WWF Russia
Shantar Islands
© Yury Shmakov / WWF Russia