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Huge environmental disaster in Kamchatka

Scientists investigating the causes and consequences of the environmental disaster in Kamchatka have reported that virtually all the marine life found on the bottom in the waters affected by the pollution has been annihilated. More and more worldwide news outlets are publishing tragic images showing hundreds of dead octopuses, large fish, sea urchins and crabs
Published: October 10, 2020 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 21:17
Huge environmental disaster in Kamchatka

Scientists investigating the causes and consequences of the environmental disaster in Kamchatka have reported that virtually all the marine life found on the bottom in the waters affected by the pollution has been annihilated.

More and more worldwide news outlets are publishing tragic images showing hundreds of dead octopuses, large fish, sea urchins and crabs dumped on the shore of Khalaktyrsky beach. Environmentalists there have long sounded the alarm over the ecological disaster, while Kamchatka Governor Vladimir Solodov has said that the cause is still unknown.

dead molluscs in Kamchatka
Large numbers of dead molluscs and other sea creatures found on shore

Experts, after collecting samples and carrying out on-site reconnaissance, told the authorities that as much as 95% of the fauna and flora along the seabed in the Gulf of Avachin has been annihilated. Three hypotheses are currently being considered as the cause – man-made pollution, an unspecified natural phenomenon or an earthquake associated with volcanic activity.

We did not find the bodies of any large marine animals or birds on shore. However, during the dive, we discovered that benthos (bottom-dwelling organisms) are dying en masse at depths of 10 to 15 metres. As much as 95% of them are already dead. Some large fish, shrimps and crabs survived, but in very small numbers,” Ivan Usatov, a scientist from the team investigating the causes of the disaster, told the meeting

Scientists from the Kronotsky Biosphere Reserve, the Kamchatka Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography (KamchatNIRO) and the Kamchatka branch of the Geographical Institute warned Governor Solodov that the death of these organisms would entail the death of other animals for which the benthos was a source of food.

After this dive, I can confirm that there has been an ecological disaster. The ecosystem has been significantly weakened and this will have long-term consequences because everything in nature is interconnected,” said underwater photographer Alexander Korobok, who took part in the expedition, adding that he suffered chemical burns after the dive

The scientists also said that in their opinion the contaminated area is much larger than the parts they managed to examine. A special commission is to examine the waters near the Kozelsky and Radyginsky military training grounds, located near Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, to determine whether, for example, a pesticide spill could have caused this.

greenpeace experts kamchatka
Greenpeace experts took samples from the banks and mouth of the Nalycheva River

Local surfers and swimmers first noticed the potential problem three weeks ago when they reported sore eyes, sore throats, vomiting and fever after entering the water. Greenpeace, in turn, reported that tests of water samples collected at Khalaktyrsky beach showed oil levels four times higher than normal, and levels of the toxic organic compound phenol, were 2.5 times higher than normal there.

At the moment there are still more questions than answers, but there is no denying that the situation is dire and the local ecosystem may not recover again.

Photo: Anna Strelchenko/TASS

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About author

Marcin Pawełczyk
Marcin’s journey with diving has been an adventure. Starting as a recreational diver, he soon found himself drawn to the fascinating stories and mysteries of Baltic wrecks. After gaining experience, Marcin decided to go beyond just leisurely exploration and took his training up a notch by completing the TMX course, allowing him to explore even deeper and uncover the secrets of inaccessible places. His next challenge has been cave diving, where he is honing his skills to become a certified diver. Not content to simply take in the breathtaking beauty of underwater life, Marcin has also embraced underwater photography since 2018, capturing stunning shots that bring these worlds alive for those who are unable to experience them first-hand. Marcin’s passion for the underwater has taken him far and is sure to continue doing so as he dives into new depths and captures breathtaking images.
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