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23 october

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“We all called this event a catastrophe, but it is a natural disaster” — Elena Sharoykina

During a round table at the Russian Academy of Sciences the causes of the disaster in Kamchatka Krai were discussed

“We all called this event a catastrophe, but it is a natural disaster” — Elena Sharoykina

On October 23, following the results of the investigation of the situation in Kamchatka Krai, a round table was held at the Russian Academy of Sciences where the results of comprehensive studies of samples taken from the water area of Avacha Bay, as well as a confirmed version of the incident, were officially announced. The analyzed samples were instrumental in clarifying the cause of mass death of marine life in Avacha Bay.

The moderator of the round table was Elena Sharoykina, Chair of the Commission of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation on Ecology and Environmental Protection.

“Monitoring government agencies and public organizations are relying on the results of the scientific research. A week ago, during a round table held at the Civic Chamber, we agreed to schedule a meeting after receiving the final results. Fortunately, this did not take up much time, so I hope today we can genuinely understand what happened in Kamchatka Krai,” said Elena Sharoykina in her welcoming speech.

“The scale of the catastrophe that happened and the lack of explanations of its causes led to a very strong public outcry. As a result, there was the need for an objective investigation of what had happened. Scientists have actively responded to the proposals and requests of government agencies and private organizations,” said Alexander Sergeev, President of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

He also mentioned that samples of water and internal organs of dead marine creatures were promptly delivered from the catastrophe area to leading scientific laboratories and monitoring facilities in space were also used for the purposes of the investigation.

The Head of the Russian branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Dmitry Gorshkov generally confirmed the position of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “From the data presented, we can see that the version proposed by scientists looks as the most reasonable explanation. What is more, they did not identify any reasons for believing that man-made pollution caused this disaster,” he said.

At the same time, Dmitry Gorshkov expressed confidence in the need for further environmental investigation. “I think that, as many have said here today, it is too early to draw final conclusions. We need more information.”

The transparency of the process was confirmed by the Director of the Department for Programs, Research and Expertise at Greenpeace Russia Ivan Blokov. “Indeed, the transparency was unprecedented, I really hope that such openness will continue in other cases as well. All information should be available to everyone,” he said.

“We have taken hundreds of samples to date. All these studies indicate that we do not see a pronounced artificial factor in bringing about the mass death of marine life in Avacha Bay,” said Svetlana Radionova, Head of the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources.

She noted that, according to the research results, some indicators were above the permissible level, but as of today, the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources (Rosprirodnadzor) has not revealed any technogenic impact that could have led to the mass death of marine life. “The indicators of benthonic sediments indicate the same. We have provided scientists with all the relevant data and we are waiting for the final verdict,” she said.

“19 people turned to Lukashevsky Regional Hospital in Kamchatka for medical help, four of them were children. The regional government and public associations promptly organized a medical examination of the patients. All persons who applied for medical help had normal biochemical indicators,” said Igor Berezin, a representative of the Federal Medical and Biological Agency of Russia.

He also noted that no traces of heavy metals or microelements, which usually appear in the body upon contact with processing emissions, had been found. In the results of samples of environmental sites, water and earth, the same indicators also did not exceed the limits of permissible concentration. Furthermore, indicators of carbon and nitrogen were also within the normal range.

“However, in the seawater of the Khalaktyr beach, the products of microcystin hydrolysis were found, identified as saxitoxin, produced by cyanobacteria, related to neurotoxins. The same composition, but in the form of hepatotoxin, was also found in the eggs of sea urchins that had been washed ashore. Based on the foregoing, it follows that technogenic impact cannot be identified in the incident,” emphasized Igor Berezin.

“We believe that a large amount of precipitation in the region caused a huge flood, which led to bulk emissions of nutrients and desalination, which, possibly, resulted in the rapid development and death of algae. Under a certain set of circumstances, such a phenomenon as natural mortality can provoke a more serious mortality of marine life,” said Vasily Sokolov, deputy Head of the Federal Agency for Fisheries.

“This is a fairly common phenomenon. In May, near Japan, a fairly large red spot was discovered; and as the water warmed up, it only increased. Colored waters were also seen in Chukotka in August. The water samples taken were sent to the Belomorsk Biological Station of Moscow State University. Studies have shown that the amount of red microalgae in the water was several orders of magnitude higher than the permissible level,” said Mikhail Kirpichnikov, Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Dean of the Faculty of Biology at Moscow State University. “It turned out that these algae actively release neurotoxins,” he added.

“Based on laboratory and academic studies, no toxic substances have been found anywhere in such volumes and quantities as to cause such massive death of subaqueous marine organisms,” said Andrey Adrianov, Vice President of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

“We focused on the natural origin of this phenomenon, and compared satellite information over the previous 20 years with what is happening now. The data showed an intense bloom of microalgae, a very powerful ‘red spot’. The reason for the mass death of marine organisms is that it occurred as a result of the release of toxins by a complex of Corenia species, actively releasing toxic substances, and also resulting from the formation of mass deaths on the seabed as a result of a significant depletion of oxygen levels and a huge amount of organic matter on the seabed,” he said. The Vice President of the Russian Academy of Sciences is convinced that a natural phenomenon was to blame for the catastrophe in Kamchatka Krai.

The Governor of Kamchatka Krai Vladimir Solodov expressed gratitude to everyone who was not indifferent to what had happened in the region, including scientists, representatives of the relevant government agencies and public organizations, as well as the community, under whose close supervision the circumstances of the incident were being clarified. In particular, Vladimir Solodov noted that the development of a system of integrated monitoring of the condition of the environment was necessary.

“This system will allow us to take a step forward in terms of quickly identifying and informing the population about emerging problems,” he added.

“In my opinion, the key to understanding this incident is to thoroughly, honestly, openly and rigorously analyze all the data available,” said Irina Yarovaya, Deputy Chair of the State Duma of the Russian Federation.

“All issues related to the environment must be considered in a mandatory manner not only by the regulatory government agencies, but also by the scientific community,” she added.

“Let's take our time to draw conclusions. We all called this event a catastrophe, but it is a natural disaster,” concluded Elena Sharoykina. She stated that the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation would continue to take part in public monitoring of the ecological situation in Kamchatka Krai.

Tags: Elena Sharoykina

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