Socio-ecological Union

The Newsletter of
the Socio-Ecological Union
A Center for Coordination
and Information

Moscow, Russia -- Issue 5 (39), February, 2003

SEU Times is a newsletter devoted to environmental news, events, NGO work within former Soviet Union territory. Currently it is mailed out on special occasions.

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  February 19 is the International Day of Whales. Before this festival the environmental action "Internet In Protection of Gray Whales" have started in Russia. "Living Sea", the Far East coalition of ecological organizations by means of Internet-resources addresses to the Russian people and asks them to send the letters to the President and Government with the request to change conditions of the projects on production of oil mining on the Sakhalin shelf, which threatens the population of grey whales. The environmentalists also address to webmasters of the websites with the request temporarily to place the link to the Russian and English language sites of the action, in order that maximum people learn the problem and take action.
  The Unique Okhotsk and Korean population of grey whales lives in Russia in waters of the Sea of Okhotsk (Pacific ocean), near the coast of the Sakhalin island (Russian Far East). Population number is lesser than 100 individuals. Every spring grey whales come to the coast of north-east Sakhalin to fatten on their only pasture in the world. This population of rare mammals is under threat of disappearance.
  On the shelf of north-east Sakhalin the development of oil and gas deposits by the foreign companies under the projects of "Sakhalin - 1" and "Sakhalin - 2" has begun. For several years whales are compelled to exist in conditions of constant noise from seismic works, intensive navigation and flights of helicopters, pollution of water area by dumps of drilling waste. But after all, any disturbance of animals has immediate effect for their feed and reproduction. Some last years the whales leave on wintering hungry - in 1999 scientists for the first time have find out 10 unusually exhausted whales. In 2000 there were already 27 emaciated whales. The and in 2001 and 2002 in the population still were very exhausted specimens.
  But that is not all. The Exxon company plans to construct two piers for delivery of oil and gas equipment on the spit of Piltun gulf, at the centre of feeding pasture of the whales, and also to build oil pipeline through Piltun gulf, which supports and ensures the fodder base of the whales. The "Sakhalin Energy" company intends lining of oil and gas pipelines through southern natural habitat of grey whales and installation of new oil-extracting platform much closer to fodder area of whales than already existing platform "Molickpack".
  For prevention of fatal danger for whales it is absolutely unnecessary to close all oil mining at the coasts of Sakhalin - it is enough to change the projects so that to make them more safe for unique mammals, consider environmentalists. "Living Sea", the coalition of Far East environmental organizations calls all people, who is not indifferent to beautiful wild nature and whales, to write the letters to the President, the Government and the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russian Federation, and also to the governor of Sakhalin region with the demand to make several important changes in the shelf oil and gas projects "Sakhalin-1" and "Sakhalin-2". That would be a good present to the whales at the International Day of Whales - 19th February.


  The oil mining projects, which threaten grey whales, can develop only after positive conclusion of State Environmental Assessment of the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russian Federation and after approval by Government of Russia and the administration of Sakhalin region. These bodies are included in managing bodies on the "Sakhalin - 1" and "Sakhalin - 2" projects.
  There is some period of time still, because the state environmental assessment on both projects has not been held yet, and the Government of Russia has not give the final sanction. If state bodies will receive thousands of letters, it necessarily will influence their decision on the sanction or prohibition of the works, which are dangerous to whales, and on changing of the projects. Moreover there are alternative variants of these projects.

  More info is at:


  The following information calls for full scale-campaign. Currnetly we are developing strategies and will let you know what you can do to stop the murders.


  Recently news agencies have published the information about resuming of slaughter of seal-calves of the Greenland seal in Murmansk region (north-west of Russia), the process which was almost completely stopped 3 years ago. After bankruptcy of fishing collective farm "Volna", the former controller of the process of slaughter, newly registered in Murmansk region fishing collective farm "Chapoma" have decided to realize current quota of seal-fishery.
  Fishing collective farm "Volna" was declared bankrupt by Arbitration court of Murmansk region in July of 2002, and its property was sold on open tenders. Before that external control was introduced on the farm by court decision for the period of 12 months. By the moment of introduction of external control the debts of the collective farm taking into account default interest and fines it were about $750 thousands. Water crafts "Chapoma" and "Krukovo", which belonged to fishing collective farm "Volna" were distrained by Norway for debts, and Norwegian court imposed a penalty on these vessels. They were handed over to other owners.
  Management of the new fishing collective farm "Chapoma", which bought the property of bankrupt collective farm, now says of their "grandiose plans" of resuming of seal-fishery, and it seems to be that it will be resumed with even more cruel methods.
  "Chapoma" going to hunt for seals using not helicopters, but sealers. Also they intend to sale fur of suint: catching whitecoats and keeping them in enclosure for some time till they turn into suint. The management of "Chapoma" plans also to extend their consumers market for account of consumers in Leningrad region and Kareliya, and intends to establish long-term co-operation with Norwegian company "Riber Skin". They prospect also to get the grant of TACIS for develop their activity.
  The head of "Chapoma" B.Gofman said in interview to Regnum.RU news agency that there management of "Chapoma" plans also to set pre-processing of skins: pickling in tanning vats, degreasing of skins and separation of fat; they offer to use all the products of processing including especially thymus.
  It is necessary to note that in the spring of 2002 at Tersky coast near Umba settlement (Murmansk region, in the neighbourhood of Chapoma) about a hundred of beheaded Greenland seals were found. The experts from environmental organizations suppose, that that was made to withdrawal of thymus from their intervertebral opening. Thymus is endocrine gland, and it is located exactly in that part of backbone of seal, which have disappeared together with heads of killed animals. From thymys valuable medicines are made: hormonal preparations, which is in demand on Russian and world markets of pharmaceutics.
  Comment of Maria Vorontsova, the head of Russian representative office of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW):
  "I regret for a fact I found out recently that fishery of seal-calves to be resumed. Unfortunately, Russian representative office of the International Fund for Animal Welfare is not engaged in solving of the problem of seal-fishery on White Sea for 3 years already. We were actively engaged in this problem in 1994-1999. More than once I've been to villages of coast-dwellers during the time of seal-fishery, and I have to say that that is sorrowful and nasty sight. It is a pity for people, who compelled to go to seal-fishery by the management of fishing collective farms, which explains that they cannot earn money other way. And of course, I feel sorry for whitecoats. This business is cruel, unprofitable and it is related to money-laundering.
  It is a remarkable fact that collective farm "Volna" was collapsed, and its bankruptcy is valued at about $750 thousands. In practice that means that creation of the new collective farm Chapoma (named after the village where fishery was conducted and the collective farm-bankrupt "Volna" was situated) enabled to write down the debt. I wonder, what for these money were spent?
  I don't want to accuse anybody without proof, but maybe it is necessary to remember some facts concerning Mr.Yov, the former head of the collective farm "Volna". In the end of 1990-s he lived in Murmansk about half a year spending in Norway, and once a year vizited Chapoma for two days. His daughter had had fish-processing plant.
  Quota of seal-fishery increases. I do not know exact figures for this year - they are about 60-80 thousands of calves of Greenland seal (to compare in 1990-s combined quota for Russia and Norway was 40 thousand of seals). The Norwegians are ready to subsidize seal-fishery (the Riber company for decades stands behind commercial hunting for Greenland seal, buying skins from Canada and Russia).
  About the Fund's activity during the campaign on stoppage of seal-fishery. Russian representative of IFAW made and showed 3 two-hours films about seal-fishery and its economy, developed economic alternatives to fishery (we purchased the equipment for processing and packing of mushrooms, berries and fish and handed it over to 3 coast-dwellers' families, who refused to be engaged in seal-fishery). We also financed 2-years' research by MSU biologists of the economy of the villages of coast-dwellers of White Sea and proposals of economic alternatives to seal-fishery.
  One of these alternatives actively supported by IFAW was development of ecological tourism on observation of whitecoats of the Greenland seal. The similar form of tourism prospers in Canada where it brings for a short season (10 days in March) about $1 million. Besides we actively co-operated with the State Duma and promoted the law "On Protection Of Animals From Brutal Treatment". One of the articles of the law completely banned seal-fishery for whitecoats. Unfortunately this law was vetoed by the President Putin January 3, 2000.
  We gave up the campaign because of incredible inactivity of the population of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk regions, who are unable to choose the way of development and wholly rely on authorities. But the authorities are corrupt and derives personal benefits from their posts and not takes into consideration distress of the people who live in coast-dwellers villages. So the disgrace things are continue and until the local population understand how much depends on their activity, it is hardly possible to change the situation.
  Now as a result of the active campaign on promotion of the products from furs of suint (the campaign was subsidized by Canada and Norway) these furs has become fashionable. That is why coast-dwellers' collective farms want redirect and to create keeping farms. That is extremely cruel and inhumane production: whitecoats are collected on ice seal-rookery, taking them away from mothers and thousands of them are taken by helicopters in lairs on the coast. In these lairs whitecoats are held without care for about 2 weeks. For this time whitecoats cast the coat and their fur becomes short and grey - typical seal. They turn in suints that are slaughtered for fur".

  With use of information of Regnum.RU news agency

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  This issue was written and complied by
  Sviatoslav Zabelin - the SEU Council Co-Chair,
  Olga Berlova, Alla Kapoustina
  Previous Issues of The SEU Times may be found at
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