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Премия рунета 2017

WWF-Russia demands conservation status be established over Karaginsky Island

21 may 2019
Environmentalists are also certain that all wetlands of international importance located in Kamchatka must officially become protected areas.

Karaginsky Island is located in a bay of the same name off east coast of Kamchatka in the Bering Sea. 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 to hunt for quails during spring-wintertime. 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 did not hinder this change.

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, and the USSR joined the Convention in 1974. Russia received its country-member status in 1994. There are 35 Ramsar Sites in Russia, four of them 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 the focus. Golden eagle, Steller’s sea eagle, gyrfalcon, peregrine falcon, Ross’s gull, and Aleutian tern are among the rare species present on the island.

Despite those assumed obligations, in 2010, the local government denounced the plan for protected areas on the three sites, thus making the land available for hunting.

“The situation is controversial. Karaginsky Island is a remote place. There is no resident population on the island. Thus there is no one to protect the island of 2,000 sq. km. The local government decided to avoid the problem and shuffle off its duties on to a private company,” said Sergey Rafanov, the head of Kamchatka/Bering Sea Ecoregional Office of WWF-Russia.

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 ability to fully supervise the situation is 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.

“Leasing the island, the local authorities and Russia itself have neglected the international agreements and obligations taken upon. Moreover, there are reports that fishing activity on the island is conducted with serious disregard of legislation. There is information on the Media that a fishing company was changing the river bed on the island to increase salmon catches,” said Sergey Rafanov.

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.

For additional information please contact
Head of WWF Kamchatka/Bering Sea Ecoregional Office