Kamchatka: 95% of Marine Life at Bottom of Avacha Bay Dead

Petropavlovsk and Koryaksky Volcano, as seen from Avacha Bay. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Kamchatka Nature Reserve Employees Find That 95% of Life at Bottom of Avacha Bay Has Perished
Mediazona
October 6, 2020

Employees at the Kronotsky Nature Reserve in the Kamchatka Territory have conducted a study of the shoreline and the water in Avacha Bay and found that 95% of the denizens of the sea bed have died. This was announced by Ivan Usatov, a researcher at the reserve, at a meeting with regional governor Vladimir Solodov.

“When we dove, we found that, at depths of 10 to 15 meters, there was a massive die-off of the benthos—95% of it is dead. Some large fish, shrimps, and crabs have survived, but in very small quantities,” Usatov said. At the same time, he claims that “the state of marine mammals and birds is normal.”

At Cape Nalychev, the experts discovered “atypically dark water,” “brown foam,” and “very scant marine animal life.” Near Starichkov Island and in the Bay of Salvation, they found “mass remains of dead benthos.”

The researchers noted that animals that feed on the denizens of the sea bed will die.

Employees of the reserve, the Kamchatka Fisheries and Oceanography Research Institute, and the Kamchatka branch of the Pacific Institute of Geography suggested that the pollution has spread beyond Avacha Bay, which they studied. They said that one possible reason for this was algae bloom.

In the first days of October, residents of Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands found hundreds of dead marine animals on the shore. Governor Solodov said that it could have been caused by a spill of toxic substances, algae “that washed up on the coastline during the storm,” or volcanoes.

Translated by the Russian Reader

In the latest episode of Ekologika, George Kavanosyan discusses four possible causes of the pollution, including 1) a tanker that suffered a spill in the area and just as quickly disappeared (Kavanosyan rejects this hypothesis out of hand, saying there is no supporting evidence for it); 2) seismic activity in the Kamchatka, recorded on September 15, releasing gases that could have formed various acids when they came into contact with oxygen; 3) a training exercise by Russian nuclear submarines, which could have spilled lethal waste on their way back to their base at Vilyuchinsk; and 4) stored rocket fuel from a Soviet anti-aircraft base, closed in 1990 but never properly cleaned up. || TRR

Greenpeace Russia: Siberian Wildfires Are Planetary Disaster

49754589_303A satellite view of the forest fires in Siberia, July 21, 2019. Courtesy of Deutsche Welle

Wildfires in Siberia becoming a planetary-scale disaster
Gismeteo
July 29, 2019

Grigory Kuksin, the head of Greenpeace Russia’s firefighting project, called wildfires in Siberia and the Far East a planetary-scale disaster.

Smoke from fires usually moves east or north, but this time it is moving west. Thus, the smoke has engulfed Siberian cities and has reached the Urals. The smell of burning is reported in the Volga Region and Tatarstan.

The wind that changed its direction is expected to bring the smoke to Kamchatka. It may even reach other continents across the ocean, which means it will become a planetary-scale disaster.

Kuksin believes that the smoke will continue to affect the region for a few more weeks. Heavy rain is needed to extinguish such a large fire, but no precipitation is expected.

The expert believes it necessary to reconsider the area of control and implement special measures to avoid similar situations in the future.

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Why There Are So Many Forest Fires in Russia
The scale and aftermath of the disasters are exacerbated by the consumerist mindset of authorities and the lack of resources in a weak economy
Vladimir Ruvinsky
Vedomosti
July 29, 2019

Dense smoke from forest fires has covered cities in Siberia, the Urals, and the Volga region. The fires could have been dealt with at an early stage, but regional authorities avoid fighting fires when they can avoid it due to a lack of money and means.

According to Greenpeace Russia, the fires have encompassed over three million hectares of forest, an area comparable in size to Belgium. The total for the spring and summer of 2019 is eleven million hectares, an area larger than Portugal. During this century, 2003 and 2012 saw worse fire seasons, but Grigory Kuksin of Greenpeace Russia says the records set during those years will probably be beaten this week. Usually, the smoke from the fires drifts towards the sparsely populated east and north. This year, however, the fires have attracted more attention since the smoke has drifted westwards, towards Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, and Kazan.

The current fires are largely a consequence of decision-making by Russian authorities. More than 90% are the burning fires are located in so-called monitoring zones, areas where regional authorities may not fight fires if the expenditures on extinguishing exceed the damage they cause. This regulation was adopted in 2015 when Russian federal authorities basically legalized what had been an implicit rule during Soviet times. But the Soviet authorities had, in fact, fought fires in remote areas. Nowadays, regional governors are not officially obliged to fight them. They take advantage of this, especially because they lack money and equipment.

While Russia has lots of woodlands, its economy is too week to fight all forest fires. Kuksin argues that the gigantic monitoring zones could be decreased while increasing prevention measures and using available resources to better effect. Most fires are caused by people: they are mainly sparked when loggers burn residue wood in logging areas.  Such fires could definitely be put out immediately, but local authorities have made a practice of refusing to fight them. They are the major cause of the biggest fires, which have turned into insoluble problems that only the rains can solve.

The way the authorities see things, the anticipated costs of putting out fires in the monitoring zones are always higher than the damage caused by them. The damage caused by forest fires is primarily calculated in terms of the minimum price of timber. This cost can be written off (and if not, there is no damage), i.e., forest fires often cost almost nothing in terms of official damages. However, as Konstantin Kobyakov, an environmentalist at WWF Russia, points outs, Russia loses three times more forest in fires annually (three million hectares) than the forest industry removes (one million hectares), meaning the country already faces a deficit of woodlands that will only keep growing.

Kuksin recalls that gas and oil industry infrastructure, such as pipelines, is located in the monitoring zones, and uncontrolled blazes are approaching hundreds of villages and small towns. Damage assessment does not account for air and water pollution or the real harm caused to people’s health by acrid smoke, which is harder to calculate but does considerably increase mortality. In addition, stable high-pressure systems have formed over the gigantic fire zone in Siberia, triggering abnormally heavy rains along the perimeter. The fires generate a lot of greenhouse gases and soot, which accelerates the melting of arctic ice and climate change, meaning they increase the risk of more fires in the future.

Translated by the Russian Reader