Russia: Indigenous community on Sakhalin island observes large fish kill, suspects oil spill
Indigenous residents of Nekrasovka village in the North of Sakhalin island are desparate. This winter, the largely fish-dependent community has seen large-scale fish kill in the nearby Pomr bay, their traditional fishing ground. As a result, the population of the village located on the shore of the Bay, has remained without salmon trout and smelt and thus without a livelihood. People are forced to go fishing on the Baikal Bay, 20 km away from the village. The exact cause of the disaster remains unknown, because the authorities have failed to respond to appeals from the villagers and undertake an investigation.
One of the suspected causes is an oil spill. Sakhalin is one of Russia's leading oil and gas producers. Conflict between indigenous rights and extractive industries has a long history on the island off Russia's pacific coast.
In addition, the indigenous community already been deprived of their most important source of employment, when their collective farm was taken over by a private business man two years ago in what was described as an act of grabbing.
Residents of Nekrasovka have submitted an allegation letter to the environmental Prosecutor of the Sakhalin region. Read excerpts below.
Location of Nekrasovka on Pomr bay, click for large map
To the environmental public Prosecutor of the Sakhalin region
Respected Yevgeni Vladimirovich!
Over several years, residents of Nekrasovka have repeatedly addressed complaints to the Sakhalin Fishing Administration, the administration of Okha municipal district and the Government of the Sakhalin region regarding the shallowing of our Pomr Bay and the need of cleaning (dredging) of the entrance to the Bay. We talked about the fact that the Bay is facing environmental disaster. The authorities have always responded, that thus is a matter within the competences of SakhNIRO, the Sakhalin Fishing Research Institute, which would be responsible for providing an answer to the question, whether or not there is a threat from shallowing to the bay and to its bioresources. SakhNIRO in turn responded that such research requires funding, which should be provided by the Government of the Sakhalin region. Neither SakhNIRO, nor the Federal Fishery Agency, nor the Government of Sakhalin region, nor the regional Fishery authority, the administration of "Okha" municipal district have bothered to pay attention to the problems affecting the Pomr bay, to develop a work plan and to undertake the necessary measures for dredging.
During winter 2014–2015 environmental disaster hit! We began to notice massive fish kills. The water in the Bay began to emanate an insufferable stench of decomposing fish. And we attribute this to the silting up of the Bay Pomr. What caused the mass death of fish? To identify the cause, expert research is needed. We can only assume:
- Fish kills occurred due to the shallowing of the Bay and due to the congestion of the reservoir with float ice and a lack of exchange between the bay and the open sea. This caused a catastrophic oxygen shortage.
- The disaster is man-made. A large oil spill from Kolendo deposit, which is virtually on shore of the Bay.
- During the recultivation of the landfill in Nekrasovka village, which was practically on the shore of the bay, waste waters which were disposed into the Gulf together with waste of unknown content. We don’t know what kind of waste was these barrels contained. Information reached us from the inhabitants of Moskalvo village, where is the oil storage facilities of Rosneft are located.
It should be noted that the Pomr bay is the traditional fishing ground of the Nivkh indigenous people of Nekrasovka village, Okha district. Fish is the basic means of existence for the villagers. […] In the past, the national (indigenous) collective farm "Red dawn" regularly dredged the entrance to the Pomr bay and its fishing crews caught 80 – 100 tons of saffron cod annually in the bay. Over the past 10 – 15 years the villagers observe a steady decline in saffron cod, pink salmon and chum salmon. Over the past 5 years, fish practically ceased to reach the Pomr bay! At the moment, there is no one to carry out dredging! Our farm was "privatized" (that is, grabbed) by businessman A. Pavlenko, who does not care about the shallowing and eutrophication of the Gulf, where he catches fish.
We ask for an investigation into the inaction of SakhNIRO, the Sakhalin-Kuril territorial fishing administration, the Sakhalin oblast Government (Agency Rosrybolovstvo), and to take measures to address the environmental disaster in one of the largest water bodies of Sakhalin region the Pomr bay.