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Radioactive saury

The Far East, which has become the main transport corridor between Russia and Asia, is increasingly exposed to anthropogenic impact, which affects the region's water and marine resources

Radioactive saury

Chief scientist of the Pacific Oceanological Institute, Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Professor of Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Doctor of Biological Sciences Vladimir Rakov told whether the Far Eastern Federal District is facing an ecological catastrophe, what consequences of the Fukushima accident await us and why the largest lake in the region can repeat the fate of the Aral Sea.

- What is the ecological condition of the waters of the Far East today and what are the main sources of their pollution?

- The ecological state of the waters is extremely deplorable. Land waters are more polluted than seas. We know that the Aral Sea has come to an ecological disaster, the eastern half of the lake has disappeared. We have a similar situation with Lake Khanka. Its level has already dropped by several meters compared to what it was 100-150 years ago, when the Russian people came to its coast. The lake is already shallow - the average depth is less than 3 meters, and the maximum depth is about 10 meters, although this is the largest freshwater reservoir in the Russian Far East. Its depletion goes through evaporation and water withdrawal for irrigation of fields. As a result, the water level falls, which means that everything that used to live on the ground, which used to be under water, simply freezes in winter - all mollusks, all bottom animals die. Therefore, the food base is destroyed, because of this, and the fish becomes less.

Plus, in the 1960s and 70s, powerful irrigation facilities were built on the entire Prikhanskaya lowland. All agricultural fields were abundantly watered, and even now they are watered with mineral fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides - chemical reagents. A significant part of them - that which is not assimilated by plants - enters Khanka through irrigation canals. All this chemistry affects the ecosystem of the lake, which suffers, degrades and dies. Of course, now attempts are being made to somehow rectify the situation - Primorrybvod and TINRO are trying to breed fish in order to somehow support the local population, but this is a drop in the bucket. Plus, China, with which we share Hanku, does not cooperate. There is currently no agreement on how to restore the lake to its original state and reproduce those resources that were lost. Recently, many species inhabiting the lake have become listed in the Red Data Book - leatherback turtle, perch, grass carp, other fish species, molluscs. In all groups of the lake biota, from leachates to predators, there are species that have suffered, disappear, are included in the Red Book, or those that should have already been included there.

A similar situation with marine ponds. In Primorye, the most affected are the Amur Bay and the Nakhodka Gulf. In the latter, there are more than a dozen enterprises that deal with the transshipment of dangerous goods: coal, mineral fertilizers, cement, ore concentrates that enter the bay. Here is the oil port of Kozmino, where oil spills occur from time to time. So far, they are not catastrophic, but in fact it is difficult to say what and in what scale it occurs, as the territory is fenced. If the plant is to be built also for an 30 million tons of chemical fertilizers, which will produce the strongest poisons, then the production of conditionally treated water will flow into the bay, and this will not make things worse for everyone who lives there.

In the Gulf of Nakhodka, there was not a single bay, where the mariculture industry and farms would remain. All the enterprises that exist there and are engaged in the transshipment of dangerous goods are concentrated in a small bay. Plus, many ports, which means that approaches to the berths should have greater depth for large ships. Dredging is being done, and the oozy soil that is being removed is dumped nearby and there is no life left in its place. Over several years, the ecosystem can gradually recover, but the bottom is deepened regularly, which does not allow biota to regenerate completely. That is, it is - the complete destruction of all living things.

As for the Amur Bay, an anoxic zone with a hydrogen sulfide contamination of the soil and water itself, which has already been observed in the Black Sea for a long time, is revealed in its central basin. In fact, this is an acidic environment, and quite aggressive: if something organic falls there, it will begin to decay very quickly. This zone extends the area every year. In 2006, it occupied only that part where the depth is 50 meters, but now it has expanded to a significant part of the bay and in the summer it begins to be felt already at a depth of 5 meters. It is not excluded that someday this zone will approach the shore itself, and it will be impossible to swim there.

The critical situation in the Far East is mainly observed in Primorye, because this region is a transit corridor for transshipment of various kinds of raw materials - oil, oil products, gas, coal, ore concentrates, cement, mineral fertilizers. In other regions of the DFO there are problems, least of all in Chukotka - there are no special sources of pollution. On Sakhalin and Kamchatka, all dangerous goods are transported just through Primorye, so again this region suffers most. Plus the load on the water here is uneven - all production is concentrated in the south.

- Is an ecological catastrophe threatening the region?

- It is not necessary to speak about the entire Far East in the context of an environmental disaster, because there are both Kamchatka and Chukotka, whose waters are almost not exposed to man-made impacts. But there are separate places of the Far Eastern Federal District, where an ecological catastrophe is possible - these are industrial areas: southern Primorye or northeastern Sakhalin, where oil is extracted on the shelf. Everyone forgets that this area is extremely seismic, which is proved by the tragedy of Neftegorsk. This zone is not the least unfavorable for oil and gas production, because the Sea of ​​Okhotsk is freezing, the mobile thick ice keeps for almost half a year, it always storms. There are more severe conditions compared, for example, with the Gulf of Mexico, where, nevertheless, a catastrophe occurred, and the entire northern part of the Atlantic Ocean, up to Europe, felt the impact - the oil train stretched for thousands of kilometers. And on Sakhalin this danger due to climatic conditions is even higher. Oil film after the release of thousands of cubic meters of oil - an environmental disaster, because birds, fish, bottom inhabitants, mammals are massively killed. Such a catastrophe is possible in the area of ​​northeastern Sakhalin. All the Sea of ​​Okhotsk is connected with oil and gas production, so here the ecological crisis is only a matter of time.

The saddest thing is that the degree of pollution over the years only grows. 30-40 years ago, while doing benthic surveys in the purest Posiet bay in Primorye, in every small soil sample I found traces of anthropogenic influence — for example, the lead shot left after the hunting season. And lead is a poison for the environment. Even in deeper reservoirs, even then I found pieces of old paint from ships, which are scraped off and thrown straight into the sea, and in many types of paint there is mercury. Also in the Far East before, steamboats sailed, which dumped ashes, where a considerable amount of radioactive elements are dangerous to living beings.

Now in the area of ​​the Posyet port to 60% in some soil samples is pure coal, which was washed off from the piers. Coal is 3-4 hazard classes. In Primorye, on Sakhalin appeared coal beaches, and so - wherever its extraction and transshipment takes place. Plus, oil products, getting to the water surface, eventually concentrate around small objects - dead crustaceans, fish larvae, - and settle to the bottom. And at the bottom they are "collected", for example, trepangs, who do not understand what gets into their mouths. After they have absorbed, they either perish, or they have different kinds of ugliness.

- Do current laws and regulations cope with water pollution?

- The Far East is a region that probably has the richest flora and fauna in Russia. If you take, for example, Moscow, there is no such thing of all this, and the laws relating to the protection of the sea do not concern the center. Therefore, the initiative to create legal acts should come precisely from the authorities of the region, but there are a lot of obstacles: all maritime areas are federal property. That is, local authorities can make some laws with the permission of Moscow, but it is not particularly necessary for it.

Even fishing in the coastal zone is not really regulated: the examination takes place in Moscow, where experts are far from the realities of the Far East, fishing quotas are approved there. For the same reason, the Golden Horn Bay is not cleaned - this is federal property. It turns out that all the necessary laws are either absent or do not work; the federal authorities do not deal with them. If local authorities took this water under their jurisdiction at least within the ports, then there could be a relative order, but there is no such initiative yet, the regions do not want to take on additional responsibility. As a result, enterprises dump their waste in the sea and receive fines for pollution, but they are so miserable that it is more profitable to pay for them than to clean water.

The new laws pass through the Duma very hard. As an example: the history of the aquaculture law is more than 20 years old, and when it was finally accepted, it turned out that it was not suitable for mariculture, because it was based not on local developments, but on Moscow projects. The law is suitable for freshwater reservoirs, but not for the sea. There was an instruction on fish farming, and not the law on aquaculture, the more marine. Unfortunately, now there are no laws that could protect water bodies and allow somehow to restore the disturbed ecological balance.

- Just a few days ago, the expedition of Rosatom to study the extent of the impact of the Fukushima accident on the condition of the waters and marine inhabitants of the region was completed. What do you think are the forecasts for the spread and deposition of radionuclides in the Sea of ​​Japan? How much does this disaster in the future affect the state of water and marine life?

- The fact that the expedition is organized by Rosatom, says that this is an expedition of interested persons. The main task here is to show that everything is fine there. In general, the main problem is that the Japanese do not admit close to Fukushima, therefore, Rosatom specialists worked far from the accident site. But the depth there is 4-5 kilometers, plus the vast expanses of the open ocean, so the wastewater from Fukushima quickly dissolves in large volumes of seawater, and these few tons are so low that it is impossible to find something.

As for the Sea of ​​Japan, radionuclides began to appear here immediately after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They are in the sediments, we consume them with fish. The Chernobyl accident also added radiation, and today there is already radiation from Fukushima. These radionuclides are fresh, there are probably a lot of them. In the Sea of ​​Japan, they fell with atmospheric precipitation, when the emission of isotopes occurred during an accident. Also, radiation enters here with currents. And since the Fukushima nuclear power plant continues to exist, this question remains open, and it is difficult to say how things can end. Radiation is spread all over the Far East through the biota, through migrating animals and birds, so we must constantly monitor the situation - to check the fish that is caught near the South Kurils, near Hokkaido.

This accident can have serious consequences for our region, because through the Fukushima region there is a migration of many species of fish, for example saury, and saury is followed by a squid. And it's not just the radioactivity they can accumulate in their body, but also how it will affect the next generations of animals. Our institute studied the effect of irradiation on different marine species. So, for example, sprouts of laminaria after a dose of radiation were so abnormal - instead of a long thallus of cabbage there were pinnate leaves, like palm trees. Therefore, what monsters will appear after the accident at nuclear power plants, nobody can foresee. All kinds of deviations already occur in the sea, for example, in the Chazhma region we found fish larvae whose spine is bent by a hump. But when you tell Rosatom specialists that it is their influence, you hear in reply: "And you prove that it is ours." But how can I prove it? There is a direct connection between radiation and mutations, but it can not be proved without global scientific experiments.

- What measures need to be taken to combat water pollution, and how realistic is it to stop this global process?

- Considering that the government pays serious attention to the development of the region, it is necessary to create an institute for environmental problems of the Far East, which we do not have, but there are similar ones in all serious industrial regions - in Togliatti and in Western Siberia. If such an institution existed, it would provide expert assessments and determine the areas that must be protected from industrial impact, for example, because of spawning of crabs or habitat of endangered species of animals. This institution can be purely virtual, but if its studies are funded, it will be possible to partially solve the problems of water pollution. Otherwise, without such integration, all scientists, alone engaged in the ecology of the sea in the Far East, fight like fish on the ice.

In addition, when planning global projects in the region, in particular drawing up expert assessments, you need to trust the local scientists more. When you read the projects of large construction projects, it becomes clear that information about the state of local waters and resources is taken either from the Internet, where it is limited, or from old directories that the main polluters call long-closed plants. Also confuse geographical names, and hence, the inhabitants of reservoirs. And what kind of expertise can there be? The FEB RAS has enough specialists and information to draw up a serious project that would at least partially protect the local ecology.

Pollution of the seas is an irreversible process. It goes at such a rate that it is impossible to clean the water. However, it is possible to prevent the growth of pollution. At least start with treatment facilities. But the effect of those that are built in the same Primorsky Territory, will be only when the quality of water after treatment will be on par with water quality in similar facilities in Japan. There, the water is tested using a conventional fish tank, which is located in the office of the director of the treatment complex, and the head himself drinks this water, checking the quality of cleaning on himself. We have few filtration stages at the treatment facilities, plus volley discharges are periodically conducted, which are difficult to track, and if the perpetrators are caught by the hand, the whole story ends with a miserable fine.

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