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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 on the Commander, or rather, first to Kamchatka, immediately after graduating from the Kirov Agricultural Institute's hunting department, in 1989, my specialty is marine mammals. In 1991, I came to the island of Copper, and at first sight I fell in love with these rocks with yellow lichen, these fogs that fall, closing the island completely, and you go like in a cartoon about a hedgehog and a bear, and you do not see an outstretched hand. These cries of seagulls, the sound of the surf, roar from the rookery, mournful cries of Arctic foxes. From the first days I realized that this is my island, that here I feel great, there is a clean background, and neither geomagnetic storms nor infrasound disturb me anymore. Only the end of the field season in late August - early September, I left for the mainland, but I was immediately pulled back by a magnet. My heart ached, and a month later it was like this: go back, walk along these trails, rookeries. So it turns out that marine mammals, seals, sea otters and cetaceans on the Commanders I do all the conscious life. In 2000-th year I graduated from the Moscow State University. Lomonosov Moscow State University.


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 Environment supports us, especially in the year of ecology, here I will not go against the truth. But we have a very heavy transport component. To bring everything to the islands, you need to lay out a double price. Delivery is from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky ships. There are small rolling barges, which can moor to shallow water, recline the ramp along which the machinery leaves the pier. There are Sosnovka, Vasiliy Zavoyko from Kamchattransflot. They do not have a specific timetable. This is due to the download in fact and the weather. In winter, ships go, of course, less often. Sometimes once a month, sometimes every two months. And in the winter it happens that the products in the stores run out, there is nothing except salt and sauce on the shelves. We joke sometimes in our social networks, that as if the time has not changed, but everything remains the same on the Commanders. 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 the small indigenous people, the Aleuts, according to the legislation of the Russian Federation, they can fish where, when and in what quantity they need it. That is, right on the territory of the reserve, have you heard anything about this? Poaching as such is impossible for us, because here he, a representative of an indigenous small ethnic group, went to the river bank and catches. Provides documents, but we know them all in person.

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 there is nowhere such a species diversity of marine mammals. On the other hand, in "Komandorsky" complex logistics, and more or less regularly come only foreign large ships. Australians, Germans, Japanese, Americans are a little bit rarer. There are no Chinese, Russian units. In our water area the liners are 1-2 days. Excursions are conducted from the end of spring to the beginning of autumn on 10 tourist routes. Across the territory, along the water area, you can see whales and landscapes, on the island of Bering we have completed this year the assembly of 5 cordon houses, in which not only the workers of the reserve can stop for professional needs, but also tourists. But the relief is complex, somewhere it is necessary to climb the rocks. And the basis of tourists is the elderly, they are so contraindicated, because 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.


In our plans to increase the staff, now need inspectors, ichthyologist and geologist. On the part of the cordons there are already satellite dishes and the Internet. It is possible to come to a couple, to keep house and to live. We conclude contracts for two years, in this case, employees have time to work out the costs that are borne by the reserve. For a couple of months - well, nothing at all. A lot of people passed through us, who seemed to be approaching the Commanders, but once they got there they realized that it was not just the flowers that needed to be snorted and gasped, looking at these beauties. Although the climate here is not as severe as, for example, on the island of Wrangel, where blizzards, blizzards, snowstorms are endless. We have a soft winter, we can say, European.

But, anyway, in many ways we remain a white spot on the world map. For 275 years that have passed since the discovery of the Commander Islands, how many scientists have not been here, how many expeditions there were, and how you start to sum up, collect material for a group of animals, it turns out that there are still many gaps. In recent years, we have noted 10 new species of birds. When the ichthyologists from the Moscow State University worked here, they discovered a new kind of fish - small-smelt smelt, no one knew that it, it turns out, spawns in our reservoirs. Entomologists regularly make discoveries and descriptions of already endemic species that are not found anywhere else in the world. These are real discoveries, which, perhaps, are waiting for one 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 seafarer Vitus Bering, who completed his life here. The place of confusion between Russian and Aleut 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 reserve "Commander" was founded 23 April 1993 year government decree, signed V.Chernomyrdin. The highest point is Mount Steller (755 m). Area 3 648 679 ha, of which 3 463 300 is a marine water area. "Commander" is located on the archipelago of 4-s large islands - Beringa, Copper, Toporkov and Arius Kamen - and more 60 small in the southwestern part of the Bering Sea of ​​the Pacific.

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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