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Премия рунета 2017

Scientists found out that there are even fewer sea otters in the Kuril Islands this year

27 may 2020
A survey of sea otters conducted this year in Spring as part of a joint WWF-Russia and Kinder® project showed a further drop-down in the number of these animals in the northern Kuril Islands.

Sea otter is a marine mammal whose record-dense (by the standards of wildlife) fur attracted hunters for more than a century. As a result of long-term press, the species was literally on the verge of extinction by the beginning of the twentieth century. Measures undertaken in the first half of the XXth century to protect sea otters were supposed to reverse the negative dynamics. For a long time, the expectations of scientists were met. However, in recent years the opposite trend has been observed in some parts of the Russian Far East.

The highest number of sea otters ever reported in the northern Kuril Islands was 15 thousand species in 2003. All studies in the following years showed a sudden drop in numbers to the values ​​of half a century ago.

A survey of 2017 clearly demonstrated a catastrophic 80% decline in some areas. This year, during spring surveys on the islands of Paramushir and Shumshu, the reduction in the sea otter population was 80% and 55% respectively compared to 2017. Only 219 species were found.

“The decline we witness the last decade is catastrophic. We see that there are fewer sea otters generally, and some rookeries turned out to be abandoned this year. Inspection of the western, northern and Okhotsk parts of Paramushir did not reveal the presence of sea otters at all,” said Sergey Kornev, a member of the Council on Marine Mammals, Ph.D.

The exact reasons of the reduction are yet to be determined. It is likely that the observed decrease is the result several negative factors, which had a cumulative effect on the sea otter population. Among these factors: the depletion of food, diseases, overpopulation, human influence.

“The anthropogenic factor is by far the most probable main reason,” said Sergey Korostelev, coordinator the Sustainable Marine Fisheries Program of WWF-Russia. – Small vessel gillnet fishing for salmon in the northern Kuril Islands coincides with a sudden drop in sea otters population (2008-2015). The gill nets currently used in this region are not much different from the forbidden drift nets. The complex effect of fishing on sea otters may look like this:
  • sea otters become entangled in networks and perish;
  • disturbance caused by fishing operations, forces animals to leave the usual rookeries;
  • water pollution with oil products due to shipping also leads to the inevitable death of sea otters, critically dependent on the purity of the fur, as the only way to maintain heat.”

Two more expeditions to the Northern Kuril Islands will take place this year. During them, scientists will collect additional information about the dynamics of the sea otters population. Based on the results of data processing, it will become possible to develop measures to change the situation for the better.

“The implementation of many environmental projects would have been impossible without the support of our corporate partners. The Kinder® brand and WWF-Russia have already completed the project of the eco-trail construction in the Alania National Park last year. And we are glad that this year the cooperation continued. With the financial support of the brand, we will be able to carry out important tasks to preserve sea otters and sea lions in the Northern Kuril Islands and Kamchatka: to conduct two scientific expeditions on the islands, and also to solve the problem of sea lion rookery in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky,” said Irina Vorobyeva, Director of Membership Program of WWF-Russia.
For additional information please contact
Project coordinator (Sustainable fishery project coordinator)