This large 1,243-square-mile (3,180 sq km) uninhabited island lies in Karaginsky Bay along the northwest coast of Kamchatka (58°25'-59°15' N; 163°25'-164°29'E) on a major bird migration route. Ossora village, 34 miles (54 km) to the southeast on the mainland, is the nearest settlement.
The island is an important staging area for 600,000 migrating loons, ducks, cormorants, shorebirds and gulls. The most abundant ducks are common eiders, Steller’s eiders, harlequins, northern pintails, Eurasian wigeons, green-winged teal and scoters. The island also attracts 80 nesting species with the western wetlands inhabited by high populations of common eiders and lesser numbers of harlequin ducks, which nest in the mountains. Following the breeding season, western nearshore waters serve as key molting habitat for eiders, scoters, mergansers and harlequins. East coast sea cliffs support 39 colonies of an estimated 240,000 pairs of nesting seabirds. These include black-legged kittiwakes, common and thick-billed murres, pelagic cormorants, slaty-backed gulls and tufted puffins. Red-necked phalaropes, rufous-necked stints, dunlins and whimbrels are the most numerous of the shorebirds. Russian Red Data Book species regularly recorded include Steller’s sea eagle, gyrfalcon, peregrine falcon, and Aleutian tern.
Other notable wildlife: Whales, seals and Steller's sea lions inhabit surrounding marine waters. Domestic reindeer range freely over the island.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
While human disturbance and habitat disruption from reindeer herding, fishing and poaching may become increasing problems, severe economic constraints are making it impossible for the regional government to provide adequate response. Funding is essentially unavailable for research and monitoring. High seabird bycatch rates are a big problem in the Japanese high-seas salmon drift-net fisheries in waters east of the island. Between 1993 and 1999, biologists estimate that 483,000 seabirds of 27 species were killed in this destructive fishery.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Russian scientists have recommended that the zakaznik be upgraded to zapovednik status, and supplemental funding sought to help provide reasonable levels of protection and management. The destructive Japanese salmon drift net fishery should be prohibited.
The entire island and 1.2-mile wide (1.9 km) marine zone is protected in a regional wildlife refuge (zakaznik) with management authority assigned to the Committee for Environmental Protection of the Koryak Autonomous Area. The zakaznik was designated a Ramsar "wetland site of international significance" in 1995.
Habitat and land use
The island is about equally divided between coastal plain wetlands on the west and mountains bordered by continuous sea cliffs on the east. There are numerous springs along with rivers and streams that cross the western coastal plain. Intertidal mud flats, marshes and fens, and low bush-hummock tundra are the predominant habitat types with scattered patches of dwarf alder, Siberian dwarf pine and stone birch woods.