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© A. Ratnikov
© WWF России/Vadim Shtrek
© A. Ratnikov

The Russian coast is washed by 12 seas and the Caspian sea-lake. The west coast of Kamchatka and of Kuril islands goes directly to the Pacific Ocean.

The total area of the territorial waters and exclusive economic zone of Russia is about 7 million square kilometers.

The area of the continental shelf under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation is about 5 million square kilometers, which represents about one fifth of the area of the World Ocean shelf.

The Far Eastern marine reserve is the only nature reserve in Russia, founded in 1978 year as an exclusive marine protected area (MPA). In addition to it the marine nature is protected in 8 nature reserves, 2 refuges of the Far East and 2 Arctic reserves, 2 reserves and a refuge of Barents and White Seas and 2 nature reserves in the Caspian sea.

The seas of Russia have several unique features:

  • · Barents, Bering and Okhotsk seas are the most productive seas in the world, and the productivity of the Western Kamchatka shelf is the highest in the world and is about 20 t/km2.
  • · In the Far Eastern seas of Russia the stocks of commercially important species of world significance are concentrated. There are Alaska Pollock, Pacific salmon and king crab.
  • · In the Arctic and Pacific waters the stock of cod is significantly higher then in the North Atlantic.
  • · The highest diversity of sturgeon and salmon of the world are in the Russian seas.
  • · The most important migration routes of the marine mammals and birds of the northern hemisphere pass along the coast of the Russian seas.
  • · The unique ecosystems are opened in the Russian seas: the relict ecosystem of lake Mogilny, the relict ecosystem of kelps in Arctic (Chaun Bay), shallow-water hydrothermal communities in the bays of the Kuril Islands.

Now the nature of the Russian seas is under the intense human impact. The Black and the Caspian seas affected particularly. During the last decades their ecosystems are almost entirely changed under the influence of human and natural factors.

The main factors that represent the greatest threat to marine life:

  • · Over-exploitation of marine biological resources leading to their depletion. The reasons: poorly regulated fishing and poaching.
  • · Marine pollution and disturbance of natural ecological processes. The reasons: oil and gas offshore, intensive navigation.
  • · Pollution and other impacts on the ecosystems of the rivers flowing into the seas of Russia.

There are the practical ways to mitigate and prevent threats to human influence. Here are some of them:

Radical reform of the fisheries. The development of sustainable fisheries, which does not deplete marine bioresources.

Creating of a national network of marine protected areas (nature reserves, fishery protected zones, refuges and parks).

Conducting a strategic environmental assessment of oil and gas on the shelf before these projects start.

South Sakhalin littoral zone.
© WWF Russia / V. Spiridonov.
South Sakhalin littoral zone.

Diversity of Marine Life

Seas of Russia are located in different natural regions, where marine life is influenced by different local conditions.

The seas along the Siberian coast - Kara Sea, Laptev Sea, East-Siberian Sea and Chuckchee Sea – experience major influenceof the great Siberian rivers.

The warm streams of North-Atlantic and North-Pacific sea currents meet with cold arctic waters in Barents and Bering Seas. These areas represent great diversity of nature formations and high ecosystem productivity.

The White Sea is special in a way that it goes far into the continent and gets closed covered with seasonal ice. White Sea is habitat for both arctic and temperate waters species.

The Sea of Okhotsk is remarkable for even greater diversity. It is home for such isolated populations asGreenland (ice) whale.

The Gulf of Peter the Great in the Sea of Japan is the northern boundary for spread subtropical marine fauna.

The ecosystems of the Black Sea are very similar to waters of the Mediterranean sea.