A media event: Will beluga whales be safe on Solovetsky Islands?

A media event: Will beluga whales be safe on Solovetsky Islands?

19 February 2014

On February 18, on the eve of Marine Mammal Protection Day, the UN House in Moscow hosted a meeting for journalists and experts within the context of the event. They discussed the need to sustain and protect beluga whales in the Solovetsky breeding aggregation.


Today, experts are drafting a federal targeted programme to develop the Solovetsky Islands and preserve their cultural and natural legacy on the President’s instructions. They are supposed to determine the legal status of the islands. There is a unique reproductive beluga aggregation near the westernmost tip of Bolshoi Solovetsky Island, the importance of which has been recognised by internationally.


Probably, some belugas spend winters in ice-holes by the islands. A local beluga gathering spends the entire summer and some of autumn in the area of Beluzhy Cape of the Bolshoi Solovetsky Island. In this area, they undergo all of the major processes that are vital for their sustainability in Europe’s entire North-West – the birth and upbringing of calves in the first months after birth and training in social conduct in the first few years until they sexually mature, form couples, and mate.


Research held over the past few years has shown that the Solovetsky Archipelago is vital for sustaining biodiversity. This is a unique biological area of international significance. The beluga whale is the final link in the food chain of the marine ecosystem and an indicator of its condition. It is important for monitoring rational use of nature, assessing ecological risks and measuring anthropogenic pressure.


To preserve the cultural and natural legacy of the Solovetsky Islands, experts are elaborating environmental and economic grounds for creating a federal reserve with a five-mile basin. Participants in the event enthusiastically supported this idea.


Vsevolod Belkovich, PhD (Biology), a member of the Board of the Council on Marine Mammals and a laboratory head at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oceanology, delivered a report titled, White Sea beluga whales and problems of their protection on the Solovetsky Islands.


Reports were also made by Head of the Solovetsky Branch of the Moscow State University Biostation, public activist Nadezhda Cherenkova, and Vasily Spiridonov, PhD (Biology), a senior fellow at the Institute of Oceanology, a scientific consultant of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s UNDP/GEF project on consolidating sea and coastal specially protected areas in Russia, and an expert in a number of national and international task forces on preserving marine biodiversity.


The participants arrived at the conclusion that it is necessary to establish a reserve on the Solovetsky Islands with the view to preserving their natural legacy.


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Marine Mammal Protection Day or World Whale Day has been observed on February 19 since 1986 when the International Whaling Commission prohibited whale hunting after 200 years of merciless annihilation of these mammals.