Getting SE Kamchatka as an EBSA and candidate IMMA from marine mammal data

Full Solution
Killer whales in Kamchatka
Tatiana Ivkovich, Far East Russia Orca Project (FEROP, WDC)

In 1999, the Far East Russia Orca Project (FEROP) took on a leading role in long-term whale research in Russia with researchers gathering data in Kamchatka (1999-2016+) and the Commander Islands (2007-2016+). Teams of 10-20 Russian researchers have pursued a wide variety of studies on killer whales, humpback whales, Baird’s beaked whales and North Pacific right whales, including photo-ID, transect and sighting surveys, acoustic surveys, leading to greater protection efforts.

Last update: 02 Oct 2020
Challenges addressed
Loss of Biodiversity
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Creating knowledge base for exploited whale species, gaining recognition of key habitat The whale populations in the Russian Far East have only recently been studied yet quotas are issued every year for killer whale captures, while Baird’s beaked whales are being exploited by Japanese whalers. North Pacific right whales were reduced to fewer than 500 individuals due to the long history of whaling. Information on status and habitat needs for whales is needed.
Whale, marine mammal and seabird populations in the Russian Far East; Russian researchers who work with these species. The managers of coastal reserves, as well as local people in Kamchatka, who are now more aware of the whale populations.
Scale of implementation
Deep sea
Species management
Protected and conserved areas governance
Local actors
Science and research
Kamchatka Krai, Russia
East Asia
Summary of the process
In a step by step process, we built the case for protection, one building block at a time, over a period of several years. Having the ready international platform of the CBD EBSAs was a bonus. Once we gained entrance to the CBD EBSA meeting we knew there was a chance that we could build the case for protection to the scientists. Through a combination of local presentations and media, international papers and conference venues, as well as the CBD EBSA meeting, we have built a following for current and future marine wildlife conservation work in this area of the North Atlantic.
Building Blocks
Setting up a long-term research project
This collaboration between the Far East Russia Orca Project (FEROP) of Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), the Russian Academy of Science and researchers from Moscow State and St. Petersburg State universities has focussed on the following research areas: Abundance and distribution, behavioural ecology of whales, dolphins and porpoises in Russian Far East waters, and how they inform conservation of these species.The funding for a multi-year study was obtained to train and enlist young Russian researchers in the study and conservation of these species.
Enabling factors
The work in the various research areas has been presented in papers and popular articles, and other media. Building links with various local and national institutions in Russia through key researchers has been vital to our success.
Lesson learned
It takes more years than originally envisioned to do the baseline studies and to get the quantity of data needed to progress to thinking about protection. Part of this is due to the logistics of working in the unpredictable conditions of the Russian Far East, but it's also because results from photo-ID and acoustic research techniques to indicate habitat require multiple years.
Presenting at international meetings
With the researchers gaining their MSc degrees and PhD degrees over the first 3 years of the study, we were then able to start publishing papers and to entertain the idea of attending and presenting at international meetings. Meeting at a national venue (Russian biennial conference) led to European Cetacean Society conference presentations which then opened up the main Society for Marine Mammalogy Biennial as a platform for presentation.
Enabling factors
Hard work by the young researchers; funds raised from multiple sources within and outside Russia.
Lesson learned
It takes time and practice to be able to make the best presentations.
Presenting work in Petropavlovsk to local people & groups
We presented our work in the local schools and community centres through talks and slides, and we were interviewed by local newspapers to explain our work and gain support within the community. We also offered to talk about our work on tourist ships. Outreach is an important part of gaining community support among local people, including researchers, fishers, and of course media. The rationale is that without their support, marine habitat protection will be less likely to be respected.
Enabling factors
Openness of some schools and tourist ship companies to allow us to present.
Lesson learned
The ability to communicate scientific information to the public, as well as persistence, is needed to get messages across. Knowledge about whales, dolphins and the marine environment is limited and the idea of marine protection is new to many.
Gaining an invitation to the CBD EBSA meeting in Moscow
We carefully prepared our maps and other data and then wrote a supporting letter to one of the organizers of the IUCN CBD EBSA meeting in Moscow in March 2013. After some back and forth, we managed to get a formal invitation and to raise the funds to send researcher Mikhail Nagaylik. He attended and submitted a strong case for a large EBSA covering most of the east coast of Kamchatka. This EBSA was accepted and supported both by the scientists as well as the Ministry in Moscow.
Enabling factors
The fact that FEROP co-director Erich Hoyt had attended MPA meetings and was an IUCN WCPA and SSC member helped in approaching the organizers of the CBD meeting in Moscow to obtain a place for a FEROP researcher. FEROP's deep experience in the region meant that the expertise would be essential.
Lesson learned
Think creatively and just because you aren’t formally invited to something doesn’t mean you don’t belong, or that you can’t get in.

1) local people were made aware of whales and the issues about their protection, 2) international scientific recognition as an ecologically or biologically significant area (EBSA) under CBD was approved by Moscow and will help safeguard the whales against exploitation.

To establish the current status of habitat needs, the Far East Russia Orca Project (FEROP), sponsored by Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) and other groups, has pursued a wide variety of studies on killer whales, humpback whales, Baird’s beaked whales and North Pacific right whales, including photo-ID, transect and sighting surveys, acoustic surveys, linking behavioural data to GPS locations, and collecting prey including salmon scale samples. Individual profiles and tracking over multiple seasons has been possible. These data, along with seabird and pinniped data from other researchers, enabled the preparation of a case study submitted by FEROP to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) EBSA workshop held in Moscow, March 2013. FEROP scientist Mikhail Nagaylik prepared and presented the case study. It was accepted and subsequently approved as an EBSA by the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources, and in the EBSA meeting of the parties. Further research is now being carried on in the region to delineate habitat zones important to these various species and their prey to be proposed as candidate IMMAs and for extension of the Commander Islands State Biosphere Reserve. Following the intensive whaling era, including the illegal Soviet whaling which has only been revealed since 1995, little was known about the present status of whale populations in the Russian Far East waters. Comprehensive long-term studies were needed, including training of Russian researchers, obtaining permits and other permissions for research and raising funds. The goal of recognition and protection for whale habitat in this remote area, suspected of having important habitat, seemed very far away. It should be noted that although protection for whales and whale habitat was the goal, they also served as a vehicle for gaining recognition leading to protection of the marine environment in this highly productive region. International recognition, through CBD and from outside scientists and the conservation community, is also vital to creating the climate for protection within Russia.
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Other contributors
Erich Hoyt
IUCN SSC/WCPA Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force