Russia is the largest country in the world and has an extensive coastline in excess of 37,000km. This coastline spans both the Arctic and Pacific oceans, with many large, populated islands as well as numerous archipelagos of smaller islands. Russia has three main geographic regions: European Russia, Siberia, and the Russian Far East. Given the vast extent of Russia's marine habitat, relatively little is known about the seabirds occupying it. Public awareness of conservation is low, and management structures of existing protected areas are unclear (Newell, 2004). Nevertheless, Far East Russia is known to be particularly important for breeding sea duck and auk species, and hence priorities for marine IBA identification. The non-governmental organisation Birds Russia is focussing on seabird research as a priority. The species prioritized for research and for marine IBA description are Kittlitz's Murrelet (CR), the Long-billed Murrelet (NT), the Aleutian Tern (regional endemic), the Short-tailed Albatross (VU) and the Laysan Albatross (VU). Numerous old seabird surveys have been published in Russian literature, although these have not yet been compiled into a central resource. New data has been collected in recent years via vessel-based survey visits, and these have revealed 29 breeding colonies collectively hosting nearly 2 million seabirds. None of these colonies are currently protected. Some long-term monitoring data exists in the Commander Islands, but only around 5% of seabird breeding sites in the Russian Far East have proper monitoring underway. There have, however, been recent attempts to involve local people in the photo-based monitoring of seabirds nesting on cliffs.
Marine IBA assessment issues include deciding where the boundaries between terrestrial and marine IBAs should lie, particularly when some species such as eiders, phalaropes and Black-headed Gull (LC) are relevant to both. Initial estimates suggest there are probably 70-130 globally significant seabird IBAs in the region, representing over 20 million birds. In addition, foraging ranges for guillemots, auklets, Black-legged Kittiwake (LC), and Northern Fulmar (LC) have been explored for some sites and these could be formalised into new IBA boundaries. Vessel-based surveys have revealed Kittlitz's Murrelet (CR) distributed along the coastline where 10 IBAs have been proposed, and where 4 breeding sites are known. However, there are few data on wintering areas, with many birds migrating south to the Kamchatka coast and around Sakhalin Island. Bycatch mortality has been observed in the Bering Sea and the Kamchatka coast, and oil/gas development will likely pose a future threat for this species.
The key threats to seabird populations in the region include:
o Bycatch in salmon driftnet and gillnet fisheries
o Marine pollution
o Illegality within protected areas
o Oil spills and additional offshore oil and gas developments
o Coal mining
o Dumping of nuclear waste directly into the sea
o Seabird and egg harvesting
o Human development and disturbance at breeding colonies
o Identifying core Kittlitz's Murrelet (CR) breeding sites, estimating local population sizes, identifying knowledge gaps, progressing community monitoring in Chukotka and Kamchatka, evaluating bycatch in Kamchatka and collaborating with the US for range-wide conservation
o Clarifying status and numbers of Long-billed Murrelet (NT)
o Satellite tracking of Aleutian Terns to discover their wintering grounds, and analysis of the status of the Asian population
o Compiling an inventory of wintering seabird concentrations (esp. Alcids & eiders) in the Kuril Straits and South Kamchatka
o Continue monitoring in Commander Islands Reserve, Talan Island in the Northern Sea of Okhotsk
o Surveying of uncounted seabird colonies in Penzhina Bay
o Establishing community monitoring of cliff nesting seabirds (guillemots and Black-Legged Kittiwake) based on the Chukotka model
o Finalizing foraging areas and identifying key marine areas for protected areas within the Russia/US collaborative Beringia National Park in the Bering Sea
o Evaluating seabird and egg harvest in traditional hunting areas of Inuit & Chukchi peoples
o Monitoring seabird mortality in the salmon fisheries, particularly Kittlitz's Murrelet and Long-billed Murrelet bycatch in coastal fishing in Kamchatka
o Improving coastal zone and salmon fisheries management
o Promoting effective oil spill management with local authorities
o Lobbying government for legal protection of key sites, including offshore sea surface areas and IBAs in general
o Working with local governments to create regulated activity zones in coastal waters
o Publishing and distributing Russian language educational material for fisherman, boat crews, helicopter pilots etc.
Government's support/relevant policy
Less than 50% of important seabird breeding sites in the Russian Far East are protected, and many of these are only on a local scale. Russian legislation only allows the sea surface to be designated as an MPA at the federal level, and mostly this is within 2km of coast, though the Commander islands are an exception with 30km around the island protected. IBAs are currently not formally included in planning processes although some progress has been made in European Russia where local level protection has been achieved. However there is a need for serious lobbying to convince government to think beyond the current 2km limit. Russia started work on its IBA assessment over fifteen years ago, although for the Far East it is not yet complete, and has not progressed considerably in the last 10 years. There is a lot of additional recent knowledge, but this needs to be coordinated to fill gaps and update existing sites. Extensive work has already been conducted in the Bering Sea in collaboration with Audubon Alaska and the BirdLife Asia division, and a marine IBA workshop took place in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in early 2012 (BirdLife International, 2012). Please see policy tab for list of agreements that this country is party to.
Petrels and shearwaters
Gulls and terns
Ducks, geese and swans
IUCN Red List Status
The numbers in brackets refer to the country's rank when compared to other countries and territories globally.
BirdLife International (2010). 1st Asian Marine IBA Workshop Report. Held 14-16 April 2010, JICA Chikyu-hiroba, Tokyo, Japan. BirdLife International internal report.
BirdLife International (2012) 1st Workshop: Marine Important Bird Areas (IBA) of the Russian Far East. Held 22-22 February 2012, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia. BirdLife International internal report. (In Russian)
Newell, J. (2004) The Russian Far East: A Reference Guide for Conservation and Development. 2nd Ed. McKinleyville, CA: Daniel & Daniel
BirdLife International (2023) Country profile: Russia. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/country/russia on 22/09/2023.