Mass Die-Off of Marine Animals Raises Environmental Concerns in Russia’s Kamchatka Region

After a major oil spill wreaking havoc in Arctic Siberia , a few months ago, water contamination in Russia’s Kamchatka region has caused a mass-die-off of marine animals, raising environmental concerns. The exact cause of this catastrophic event has not been yet determined, although large-scale investigations are being carried out in the region.

A Mass Die-Off of Marine Animals in Russia’s Kamchatka Region

Image: Anna Strelchenko

The incident was first reported late last month when surfers suffered stinging eyes post their surfing sessions. They also noted that the water changed its color and had developed an odor. After medical examination, it was declared that the surfers sustained mild burns to the corneas.

Soon, the locals informed the authorities about large numbers of dead marine animals including seals, octopuses and sea urchins washed up on a black-sand beach that is popular with tourists. Divers had confirmed the deaths of aquatic species and pollution appeared to have spread over a wide area.

A Mass Die-Off of Marine Animals in Russia’s Kamchatka Region

Image: Anna Strelchenko

Experts have many theories as to what could have caused this mass die-off. A few believe that poisonous substances in underground storage, since the Soviet era, could have leaked into the water; while others think that rocket fuel stored in the region’s military testing grounds may have leaked.

Vladimir Burkanov, a biologist specializing in seals, indicated that old stores of rocket fuel kept in Radygino could have been damaged due to corrosion and leaked into waterways. The other site, Kozelsky, has been used to bury toxic chemicals and pesticides in the past. Both these sites are the primary suspects of involuntarily leaking toxic substances and polluting the waters, resulting in the death of hundreds of marine animals.

A Mass Die-Off of Marine Animals in Russia’s Kamchatka Region

Image: Anna Strelchenko

Vladimir Solodov, Kamchatka governor, said that the sea off the remote Kamchatka peninsula may have been contaminated with toxic chemicals. He assured that both military testing sites will be monitored closely to determine whether they were responsible for the pollution, citing a yellow film on a local river.

Officials said tests showed excessive levels of phenol and petroleum products; and some other tests had so far found slightly increased amounts of iron and phosphates and suggested that the incident might not be manmade but caused by the stormy conditions and micro-organisms changing the oxygen levels.

Greenpeace Russia, which has been assessing the situation, has warned of an “ecological disaster.” The Greenpeace team had seen patches of yellowish foam and murky water in many locations in the region, with some pollution drifting toward a UNESCO-protected area of active volcanoes.

Via: The Guardian 

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