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Reserve "Commander": love, poachers and cruise liners

In the bottomless Pacific Ocean on the volcanic ridge

Commander * is the largest marine reserve in Russia, the "record holder" for the number of marine mammals, and the only one that protects not only animals but ... people. What is the life of the unique region today, for which it is so loved by its inhabitants and what hinders the development of tourism on the islands? East Russia spoke with the deputy director for the science of the reserve Evgeny Mamaev

Reserve "Commander": love, poachers and cruise liners
Photo: Evgeny Mamaev
There is not a cozy hole in the world than raw Commodores (c) - folk folklore.


“First, I'll tell you about love. I got to the Commanders, or rather, first to Kamchatka, immediately after graduating from the hunting department of the Kirov Agricultural Institute, in 1989, my specialty is marine mammals. In 1991, I came to Medny Island, and at first sight I fell in love with these rocks with yellow lichen, these fogs that descend, closing the island completely, and you walk, like in a cartoon about a hedgehog and a bear cub, and you don't see an outstretched hand. These cries of seagulls, the sound of the surf, roar from the rookery, mournful cries of polar foxes. From the very first days I realized that this is my island, that I feel great here, there is a clear background, and neither geomagnetic storms nor infrasound bother me anymore. The field season was just ending in late August - early September, I was leaving for the mainland, but I was immediately drawn back by a magnet. My heart ached, and after a month I started to itch like this: I would go back, walk along these paths, rookeries. So it turns out that I have been engaged in marine mammals, seals, sea otters and cetaceans on the Commanders all my conscious life. In 2000, I completed my postgraduate studies at Moscow State University. Lomonosov.  


When you live here, in such ascetic conditions, you understand that a person does not need much. Enough is a piece of bread, tea leaves, sugar, salt, cereals. We, when we live in the fields, we manage with a minimum of products. Sometimes you want a chocolate bar, a cake, some frills. You go on vacation, get hungry, and start pulling back where it does not exist.

With funding, everything is fine with us, the Ministry of Natural Resources supports us, especially in the year of ecology, here I will not sin against the truth. But we have a very difficult transport component. To bring everything to the islands, you need to pay double the price. Delivery goes from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky by ships. There are small rolling barges that can moor in shallow water, swing the ramp, along which equipment drives to the pier. There are "Sosnovka", "Vasily Zavoiko" from the company "Kamchattransflot". They don't have a specific schedule. This is due to actual loading and weather. In winter, of course, the courts run less frequently. Sometimes once a month, sometimes once every two months. And in winter it happens that groceries in stores run out, nothing but salt and sauce on the shelves. We sometimes joke on our social networks that no matter how time changes, but on the Commanders everything remains the same. Stability!"

Means of poaching


"In our reserve, 10 inspectors work on 3 million hectares of territory, the same area is occupied, for example, by Belgium. The main year-round work is carried out on the island of Bering, because the island of Copper is hard to reach and the population is not there. The main types of offenses in our practice are illegal fishing for salmon, sockeye salmon, pink salmon and coho salmon, but such cases are rare. This is due to the inaccessibility of our protected lands.

The reserve is complex in territorial division. The northern part of Bering Island is economic and the reserve does not regulate the use of nature. We can monitor, but we do not track the issues associated with issuing quotas and so on. But the southern part is divided into two zones: it is closed and buffer, where nature management is allowed, where the reserve can allow fishing for permitted limits based on the fish population, where the collection of mushrooms and wild-growing plants is permitted. When opening the reserve, even in the establishing documents, it was said that it was created not only to preserve the wild nature in its natural state, but also to preserve the traditional way of life of the Aleuts. According to the last census of 2010, 600 lives in the village of Nikolskoye, half of them are representatives of this small nationality.

Since our territory is a place of compact residence of a small indigenous people, Aleuts, according to the legislation of the Russian Federation, they can fish where, when and in what quantity they need. That is, right on the territory of the reserve, have you heard about this somewhere? Poaching as such is impossible with us, because here he, a representative of a small indigenous ethnic group, came to the bank of the river and caught. Provides documents, but we already know them all by sight.

Periodically, among the residents there are talks, here, they say, sea otters are mined, but we regularly patrol our territory, there are no objective evidences. Imagine: a calan weighs about 50 kilograms, and if someone somewhere has extracted one sea otter, it can still be hidden, but if it is a question of large poaching parties and supplies, it is somewhere to dig in dead bodies, and to get a sea otter for the sake of fur makes sense only in the winter. And technically I have no idea where it can be hidden. Throw it into the sea - but it will bring it back.



We have a twin brother, this is the Alaskan Marine Wildlife Refuge. They have a different form of protection, the ships are quietly walking, the inhabitants are fishing from the shore. If to compare, they pay less attention to the year-round study of marine mammals. Both they and we have strict legislation, but we have a less law-abiding population. Most people believe that compliance with the rules of the traffic rules - it's important, and to comply with the rules for the protection of wildlife, you can hide your eyes somewhere. In turn, colleagues from America told me that even if you find the feather of a bald eagle somewhere in the forest, do not take it with you at all, because then no one will even figure out whether you found him or a bird obtained, will write out a large fine. "

Sea Paradoxes



"In addition to protecting the territory, we are monitoring the ship's situation. Our reserve has agreements with companies supplying satellite data, and if the waters are violated by a ship that does not have the right to stay here, we receive a signal, and the guard department continues to work with the owner of the ship, writes out fines.

But next to it there are large shipping ways, and for their reduction, merchant ships, container ships, dry cargo ships and tankers cross the water area of ​​the "Commander" without obtaining prior permission. Most offenders are foreign vessels flying the flag of such maritime powers as Belize, the Marshall Islands and the Cayman Islands. But our jurisdiction does not apply to them, we can not do anything with them! They do not have a representative office in Russia, respectively, Russian legislation does not apply to them. Border guards can work with them, but we can not. But border guards do not solve this issue either, because these vessels formally do not violate the border. Can you imagine what a paradox? They are untouchables. In order for us to somehow change this situation, it is necessary to work at the level of an international maritime organization that is engaged in establishing forbidden areas for the civilian fleet around the world. This in the UN can be decided, but definitely not at our level. I emphasize, these are huge trading, but not poaching vessels, which simply try to go the shortest way. Obvious damage can be in the event of a spill of oil products, and so they cause unnecessary concern to marine inhabitants. "

Compatriots can not afford?


"Tourism on the Commander Islands is one of the sick topics. This is due to the prices of air tickets. The scheme is as follows: if, for example, a conditional Muscovite wants to visit the Commanders, he flies first to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, and he should take care of buying a ticket in advance. On the plane-cheburashke L-410 seats only 12, and for each flight sell 7-8 tickets, all the others are reserved by different organizations for employees. The chance to buy this ticket is only on the day of departure or the day before departure, and it is impossible to do this via the Internet. The cost of 32 thousand in one direction by the message of Elizovo - s.Nikolskoe, plus in the opposite direction, in the transfer to the currency is a thousand dollars. The distance is 600 km one way. People fly cheaper to Latin America than to our Commanders! The carrier explains this by the fact that very high airport fees for these companies, and the maintenance of a small airport in Nikolsky all year round costs a tidy sum. At the same time, according to the Russian legislation, the airport must have a full staff, so a large number of people work there, and everyone needs to pay salaries. And in the north they are not small, and it is clear that the company is forced to bear such a social burden. The planes fly 3 times a week in the summer, and on the 2 aircraft in the autumn until the New Year; from 1 January one flight per week and so somewhere up to April. For residents of the Kamchatka Territory the tariff is 13 thousand rubles, it is subsidized by the edge. And for those who want to fly, as a tourist, to see all this beauty, in terms of budget this turns out very curly.


There are territories that are very raspiareny, which are heard, the Galapagos Islands know everything, in Russia are popular "Caucasian", "Kronotsky", "Altai" reserves, all of them are territorially easily accessible. And there are, for example, the Putoransky reserves on the Taimyr Peninsula, Pechora-Ilychsky in the Komi Republic, fewer people know about them, since it is difficult to get there. The National Park "Russian Arctic", on the one hand, is heard, and on the other hand, it is visited more by foreigners. Recently read that a million rubles is a cruise in this national park.

We have the largest marine reserve in the country, plus nowhere else is there such a diversity of marine mammals. On the other hand, the "Komandorskoye" has complex logistics, and more or less regularly only foreign large vessels call in. Australians, Germans, Japanese, a little less often Americans. There are no Chinese, only a few Russians. The liners stay in our water area for 1-2 days. We conduct excursions from late spring to early autumn along 10 tourist routes. On the territory, in the water area, you can see whales and landscapes, on Bering Island we completed this year the assembly of 5 cordon houses, in which not only the reserve workers can stay for professional needs, but also tourists. But the terrain is difficult, somewhere you have to climb the stones. And the majority of tourists are elderly people, this is contraindicated for them, therefore, in our immediate plans - the arrangement of stairs.


In 2017, the cruise liners Bremen and Silver Discoverer with 4 aliens on board were moored 512 times on the Bahamas. Attached to the port of Vladivostok "Professor Khromov" brought to the excursion another 166 people. On the island of Bering, tourists saw the noisy harems of the northern fur seal, sea otters, swaying on the fields of sea kale, the game of young whales.


Now, in September there is a migration of migrating birds, waders and anseriformes, which we have up to 20 species. The cubs of the sea otter appear all year round, in the summer they swing on waves in seaweed, and from the end of September start to go out for an overnight stay on the shore. This year we completed the ecotropes at the Northwest rookery closest to human habitation, and sold out. There are observation platforms from which you can watch the sea otter, the northern sea seal, the sea lion, the anthur before the New Year. In an hour's drive on a snowmobile from the island of Bering, you can see wintering geese. Until the closure of navigation in November, we offer tourists sea trips on modern capacious boats, there is a satellite connection, radars. Regularly you can see the humpback whale, which is the most common, the killer whale, the white-winged seahorse, the sperm whale, the northern buzzard (and there are few where in Russia you can see), the minke whale, the fin whale, and gray and Japanese whales also swim.

On the island of Bering in beautiful bays are already log cabins, small, but very cozy, with stoves. On the island of Toporkov is equipped with a tourist site, now it is planned to place information signs there, in such a way that it does not interfere with the birds, but at the same time it was useful in terms of information for tourists. For the future, we want to organize a similar one on the uninhabited island of Mednoye, where everything has decayed severely, at home there is the legacy of fishing times, 30-80-ies. The main interest of Medny represents for scientific groups, but it also hides a great tourist potential.


We plan to increase our staff; now we need inspectors, an ichthyologist and a geologist. Some of the cordons are already equipped with satellite dishes and the Internet. A married couple may well come, farm and live. We conclude contracts for two years, in which case the employees manage to work out the costs incurred by the reserve. For a couple of months - well, nothing. Many people passed through us, who thought that the Commanders were suitable for them, but when they were there, they understand that here it is necessary not only to smell and gasp flowers, looking at these beauties. Although our climate is not as severe as, for example, on Wrangel Island, where blizzards, blizzards, snowstorms are endless. Our winter is mild, one might say, European.

But, be that as it may, in many ways we remain a blank spot on the world map. In the 275 years that have passed since the discovery of the Commander Islands, how many scientists have not been here, how many expeditions have not been, and as you start summing up, collecting material on some group of animals, it turns out that there are still many gaps. In recent years, we have noted 10 new bird species. When ichthyologists from Moscow State University worked here, they discovered a new species of fish - smallmouth smelt, no one knew that it, it turns out, spawns in our reservoirs. Entomologists regularly make discoveries and first descriptions of already endemic species that are not found anywhere else in the world. These are real discoveries that may be waiting for some of you. They say that some of the Commanders manage to find themselves. "


Commander Islands are named after the one who opened them in 1741 year the navigator Vitus Bering, who completed his life here. Mixing place of Russian and Aleutian cultures, Commanders have great potential for the development of northern tourism. Located on the westernmost part of the Aleutian volcanic arc, it is a bridge between two great continents - Asia and North America. They are part of the Aleut district of the Kamchatka Territory. 
The Komandorsky reserve was founded on April 23, 1993 by a government decree signed V. Chernomyrdin. The highest point is Mount Steller (755 m). Area 3 648 679 ha, of which 3 hectares are offshore. Komandorskiy is located on the archipelago of 4 large islands - Bering, Medny, Toporkov and Ariy Kamen - and more than 60 small islands in the southwestern part of the Bering Sea of ​​the Pacific Ocean.

In 2002, the reserve was included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves under the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere program. "Commander" is unique, here resides 21 species of cetaceans, 10 species of pinnipeds and sea otters, that is, almost all species represented in the North Pacific.
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