WWF-Russia demands conservation status be established over Karaginsky Island
Karaginsky Island is located a same-name bay of the Bering Sea, offshore Kamchatka’s east coast. Litke straight separates the island from the peninsula. An official guide-book for travelers (the second edition was published in 2016) states that Karaginsky Island is a faunal area of the highest importance. The book points out that bird hunting is prohibited as well as construction works, and logging. The only exception is made for indigenous people who during spring-wintertime hunt for quails. Hunting for game animals demands a special permit.
However, it seems that the authors of the book “Kamchatka. Modern travel guide” will have to re-write it once more, for local authorities officially recognized Karaginsky Island as a hunting land in 2018. Russia’s obligation as a country-member of the Convention on Wetlands was not an obstacle for that transformation.
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. It was signed in the city of Ramsar (Iran) in 1971. The USSR joined the Convention in 1974. Russia proved its country-member status in 1994. There are 35 Ramsar Sites in Russia, four of them are located in Kamchatka. They are Parapolsky Dol, Utkholok, the Moroshechnaya River, and Karaginsky Island.
Parapolsky Dol site was the luckiest among the four as it is now a part of the Koryaksky Reserve. According to the official paper of 2002, the other three sites were meant to become protected areas in the future. The Karaginsky Island Protected Area “will become a milestone on the way of Russia to fulfill its agreements with Japan and the USA on migratory waterfowl habitats as well as the Ramsar Convention,” the document stated. All bird species were under official protection on the island. Colonies of seabirds, anseriformes, and endangered species were in the focus. There are golden eagles, Steller’s sea eagles, gyrfalcons, peregrine falcons, Ross’s gulls, and Aleutian terns among the rare species present on the island.
Despite those assumed obligations, in 2010, the local government denounced the plan on arranging protected areas on the three sites, thus making them hunting lands.
The logic is simple: the abundance of game is a concern of the hunting land operator, thus he will fulfill conservation functions. The government will conduct supervision instead of conservation. However, the nearest forest ranger is 60 km away in the village of Ossora across Litke Straight, taking this into account, his supervision functions in this particular case are doubtful. Will hunters go to the distant island to hunt for quails and hares and not for highly valuable rare species? The public is meant to give them the benefit of the doubt.
WWF-Russia is concerned about the situation around Karaginsky Island. The Fund insists that a protected area be established on the island preventing degradation of vulnerable waterfowl habitats. Moreover, WWF-Russia considers it essential that all wetlands of international importance located in Kamchatsky krai receive the conservation status. Local authorities discredit Russia’s natural reserve system and create threats for rare bird species and their habitats by avoiding the country’s obligation in the framework of the Ramsar Convention.