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Премия рунета 2017

Ecological disaster in Kamchatka

The current situation in Kamchatka reveals a problem of an all-Russian scale: the absence of a preventive environmental control system. Disjointed federal and local regulatory agencies are willing to fine violators but the procedure for revealing the facts often rests upon local residents, and environmental activists. 

The area off the Khalaktyrsky beach is one of the priority areas for conservation identified during a systematic conservation planning that was recently conducted for the Russian Far East Seas Region. The waters off the Khalaktyrsky beach are one of the 27 key areas that have the highest priority for the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems in the region. The shelf of the northern part of the Avachinsky Bay is highly productive. Not only the wildlife of the Bay depends on the area of the Khalaktyrsky beach but also the local residents as this region is an important area for fishing.

Living dead ocean

Event history

The end of September 2020 Surfers from Khalaktyrskiy beach complain that their eyes hurt, they suffer from visual deterioration and nausea. The reason is unclear, the situation is getting public.

2.10.20 After surfers’ publication on Instagram the case of water contamination of Khalaktyrskiy beach area is getting widely-known. 

2.10.20 WWF-Russia is analyzing information including satellite images in urgent manner to help assessing the type and the scale of the incident to minimize its consequences. 


"Judging by the fact that benthic species of plants and animals are carried ashore in large quantities, we draw a preliminary conclusion that not only the surface layer of water is polluted, as it would have been in case of oil products spill, but the entire body of water"

Alexey Knizhnikov, the Head of the program on Environmental Business responsibility at WWF-Russia. Learn more

Images from the satellite Sentinel-2 from 2017 to 2020 shows that it is not possible to trace contamination visually 

5.10.20 The head of the Ministry of Natural resources of the Russian Federation states that there are no chemicals in the tests from Kamchatka
6.10.20 WWF-Russia has presented interpretation of the space radar images, depicting several slick-covered areas nearby Avachinskaya Guba in Kamchatka. But they are considered to be not abnormal and unable to cause such a catastrophic consequences. Considering analysis of the satellite images, we can suppose that contaminating substance poisoned Kamchatka coast line does not have anything to do with oil-products.
Waste waters from the ships (apparently it was illegal oil contaminated water discharge) which we can see on the pictures, are unable to cause such a catastrophic consequences, that took place at the end of September. But the discharge of waste waters happened just 4 km away from the shore, obviously signals, that environmental and shipping control system is not efficient
7.10.20 After the statement of the specialists from the Ministry of Russian Emergency Situations in Kamchatka, WWF-Russia’s staff from Kamchatka office examined three bays on the coastline of Avacha, including Malaya, Srednyaya and Bolshaya Lagernaya. WWF-Russia experts discovered that the coastline is covered by dead crabs, different species of shell-fish and myriads of sea-urchins, whose density at some areas were exceeding several dozens per square meter.
8.10.20 Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources presented results of the expanded analysis of the water tests from Kamchatka. It is said that there are deviations nearby Avacha Bay. Phosphate ions - 10.8 times higher, than normal; Iron – 6.7;  Phenol – 2.9.

Unfortunately, the results, that were published, do not provide enough information for understanding the reasons of the mass mortality of the biota. It needs to get the results of the tests of biological materials.

9.10.20 Sergey Korostelev became a member of the scientific council to study the ecological disaster off the coast of Kamchatka

The main task of the newly created council is to coordinate the actions of scientific organizations, executive authorities, and to accumulate all available information on the problem of water contamination of the Gulf of Avacha and its bays. Learn more

12.10.20 The area of dead organisms washed up on the shore is expanding. There are mostly benthic species. We can suppose that damage area has reached the southern end of Paramushir island.

WWF-Russia's experts suggest widening the area of the survey further to the north, performing a dredging survey, and involving specialists from the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Russian Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring
13.10.20 WWF-Russia together with Greenpeace provided underwater drone observation in a test-regime. They explored the bottom of the sea at Avacha and Bolshaya Lagernaya bays and in the center of the city. The bottom is desertlike and mostly lifeless. The drone has shown its efficiency and we plan to use it for the examination of the bottom of other water areas, contaminated by the unknown substance, but next time it is planned to be launched from the board of the watercraft.


19.10.20 WWF-Russia, supported by the governor of Kamchatka krai, plans to invite foreign scientists who will help in a thorough analysis of the causes of the environmental crisis which took place offshore Kamchatka. WWF-Russia’s experts analyzed all publicly available data and posted an interactive map showing the exact places of where the samples were collected; where dead marine animals were washed out onshore; where known sources of possible artificial contamination are located. WWF-Russia believes that some data could have been missed and/or not taken into account properly. That is why WWF-Russia sent letters to the Governor of the Kamchatka krai, to the Federal Fishery Agency, and the Russian Academy of Sciences requesting to provide raw, source data on the samples’ composition. Learn more
21.10.20  In the framework of the legal investigation aimed at finding the cause of the environmental crisis off the coast of Kamchatka, WWF-Russia shared all available information with the Investigating Committee of Russia. This concerns results of shoreline observations, photo/video footage proving the facts of large-scale wash-outs of dead marine animals, and the result of the analysis of publicly available data on the matter.
23.10.20  The Russian Academy of Science and the Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment of the Russian Federation conducted an online roundtable discussion during which the results of the investigation of the environmental crisis in the Gulf of Avacha off the coast of Kamchatka. Microalgae bloom was called the main suspect which caused the negative impact.

“After the discussion, we can admit that the algal bloom and red tide explanation seems pretty fair. However, the results of phytoplankton and biomaterial tests, including quantitative and qualitative composition, have not been yet published; not all sampling sites have been mapped. We admit and respect the openness and transparency of the investigation process demonstrated by the government agencies,” say at WWF-Russia. “As a result of public data analysis, WWF-Russia compiled an interactive sampling site map and updates it constantly. We hope that all the results of the sample texts will be made public and scrutinized by scientists. It is possible, that this red tide phenomenon can repeat itself due to global climate change. Was the algal bloom the only cause or were there other additional factors? These are the questions yet to be answered by scientists.”

30.10.20 Kamchatka Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography (KamchatNIRO) published quantitative and qualitative phytoplankton samples analysis. The data shows a high level of microalgae some of which are capable of producing toxins. But the case is not even about the toxic contamination rather than the extreme density of microalgae cells. Scientists say that the blooming led to a depletion of the oxygen dissolved in seawater. Oxygen deficiency caused the death of benthic organisms. But what had been the factor causing the algal bloom? This is a question yet to be answered. Learn more