Russian investigators probe ‘ecological catastrophe’ after marine animals found dead on beach

Seals, octopi, starfish and urchins shown in images washed up on shore

Tom Batchelor
Tuesday 06 October 2020 07:24 BST
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Kamchatka Peninsula, a 1,250-kilometre long peninsula in the Russian Far East, is popular with tourists
Kamchatka Peninsula, a 1,250-kilometre long peninsula in the Russian Far East, is popular with tourists (AFP via Getty Images)
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Russian investigators are looking into a possible “ecological catastrophe” after images appeared to show dead seals, octopi, starfish and urchins washed up on a beach in the far east of the country.

Local surfers reported an unusual colour and smell in the water and some had reportedly suffered chemical burns to their eyes.

The Environmental Prosecutor's Office in the Kamchatka region has begun an investigation into suspected pollution of the sea.

The incident took place in the area of ​​Khalaktyrsky Beach - a popular location with professional surfers.

Acting Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology, Aleksey Kumarkov, said that after checking water samples, experts found oil deposits as well as other chemicals such as phenol.

The extent of the pollution has not yet been determined, but Greenpeace said the fact that dead animals had been found along the coast pointed to the seriousness of the situation.

Witnesses said the water in the area along ​​Khalaktyrsky beach had changed colour and  those in the sea had experienced dry eyes, blurred vision and a sore throat.

Others showed symptoms including nausea, vomiting and fever, which could indicate phenol poisoning.

Greenpeace Russia's climate project manager, Vasily Yablokov, said: “Pollution of the water area near Khalaktyrsky beach has already led to the death of marine animals and the poisoning of people.

“The unique nature of Kamchatka, the Unesco World Natural Heritage, is under threat. It is necessary to contain and prevent further pollution of the coastline as soon as possible.”

He urged the authorities to quickly identify the source of pollution.

Ekaterina Dyba, who works at a local surfing school, said: “Khalaktyrsky beach has always been a virgin piece of wild nature.

“Clear water and black volcanic sand is a unique ecosystem that is of great tourism and nature conservation value. This unique place is now under threat.

“The ocean, where surfers, kayakers, kiters, freedivers regularly visit, has become unsafe. It is still unclear how dangerous the current situation is for marine animals.”

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