Unexplained deaths of sea life are continuing to cause anxiety in Russia’s Far East.
On Tuesday, fish, octopuses and crabs were filmed washed ashore hundreds of kilometers away from the spot where the alarm was first raised.
A video of the ecological disaster near Ozernovskiy village on Kamchatka’s western coast shows dead marine creatures scattered along a 50-meter-wide area of the beach.
The peninsula, some 7,000km east of Moscow, is home to one of the earth’s most pristine environments.
The footage is similar to clips that came from Avacha Bay on the opposite eastern coast in late September, when numerous marine life washed ashore. By land, the distance between Ozernovskiy and Avacha Bay is around 250 kilometers.
Scientists have flown to the site by helicopter to take samples from the water, and remove soil and animal carcasses for analysis, local authorities said. The Prosecutor’s Office and environmental watchdog Rosprirodnadzor are also sending their people to Ozernovskiy.
“We are faced with a large-scale new phenomenon that science has yet to comprehend,“ said Kamchatka’s governor, Vladimir Solodov.
The fact that the beaches near Ozernovskiy are clean, according to witnesses, and because of the large distance between the two contamination spots, it is unlikely that the “local man-made facility near Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky” is to blame for the disaster, he pointed out.
The governor was presumably referring to the Kozelsk chemical landfill, which stands on the river flowing into Avacha Bay. A possible leak from the landfill has been considered among the potential reasons for the death of 95 percent of sea life in the area. It’s believed that it’ll take the fauna up to 15 years to fully recover.
Water samples taken from Avacha Bay after the disaster showed that the concentration of phosphates, iron, phenols and ammonium were seven times higher than normal. But a specific agent that caused the contamination couldn’t be established.
Russia’s Investigative committee has launched a criminal probe into the incident.
According to one Russian scientist, this could be caused by a toxic algae bloom:
The mass death of sea creatures in Russia’s Kamchatka region was caused by toxins from microalgae rather than man-made pollution, a senior Russian scientist said on Monday, citing preliminary findings of an investigation.
Locals on the volcanic peninsula in the Pacific raised the alarm in September as surfers experienced stinging eyes and sea creatures, including octopuses, seals and sea urchins, were found dead on the shore.
A Greenpeace handout photo shows the water near the Khalaktyr beach on the Kamchatka peninsula
Conservation activists had raised concern that the source of the pollution could be a Soviet era storage ground for poisonous chemicals on Kamchatka that might have seeped out into the sea.
“I am sure that we are facing a large-scale phenomenon, but not an uncommon one for Kamchatka, called harmful blooming algae,” the vice president of Russia’s Academy of Sciences, Andrei Adrianov, told journalists Monday.
He said that water samples showed a “high concentration only of Gymnodinium (microalgae)”, which produces “toxins that affect invertebrates”.
Adrianov added that the same toxins could have also caused the symptoms experienced by divers and surfers.
Last week, scientists said the pollution had formed a 40-kilometre-long (25-mile) slick which has been moving south towards Japan and the disputed Kuril islands.
Activists of Russia’s Greenpeace branch have voiced concern that the “situation is not improving” and dead animals continue washing up on beaches.
Adrianov, on the other hand, said “nature is regenerating itself and very quickly”.
Earlier probe results presented by regional authorities said the local bays showed above-permitted levels of phenol and petroleum products. Locals have been warned to avoid the beaches.
Coming just months after a massive oil leak in Siberia, the latest incident sparked a public outcry with a petition calling for an “open investigation” into the events so far garnering over 175,000 signatures.
Notably, while human negligence seems to have been involved in that incident, there was also speculation that permafrost melt could also be partly to blame.
Meanwhile, Russian investigators have launched a criminal probe over the illegal handling of dangerous substances and “pollution of the marine environment”.
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