The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) published a book to summarize the results of projects connected with marine specially protected areas all over the world. The Commander Islands Nature and Biosphere Reserve, along with other territories, appeared on the pages of this unique book. One of such projects called Strengthening the Marine and Coastal Protected Areas of Russia was concentrated on Russian reserves in the Far East, including the Commander Islands Reserve. The implementation of the UN project played a big role in the fast development of the reserve in the last five years.
The UNDP and GEF book Sea, My Life: Protecting Oceans, Sustaining our Future tells us about the work of a global community, to say the least, focused on a vast Marine Project, which includes Strengthening the Marine and Coastal Protected Areas of Russia project. The reader’s attention is concentrated on marine and coastal protected areas – the participants of the Marine Project.
A broadside of the book, telling about the Commander Islands Reserve. Source: the UNDP official web-site.
By the way, you can download the book for free on the official UNDP web-site as a PDF-file. This unique material includes the survey of challenges faced by nature reserves in different part of the world, of ways to solve the problems and to improve the methods of marine protected areas management. The book also tells about 15 marine reserves, which are very different, unique, but connected in an informal transnational network by one of the main sources of life on Earth – the World Ocean.
As any reserve, the Marine Project has many interconnected goals in science, ecological monitoring, protection and ecological tourism. On the Commander Islands the Marine Project started with a general audit of the reserve management system, which took place in 2011. The results lead to new personnel solutions to increase management stuff efficiency of the Commander Islands Nature and Biosphere Reserve. We changed our policy, especially information policy, started building and developing the territory and constructions, improved our educational and scientific activity, protection and interaction with the stakeholders. All spheres of our activity were reconsidered and reformed, because of this project. To see the details, visit this section of our web-site.
Sea otters counts in the framework of the Ecological Monitoring Program of the Commander Islands Reserve. Photo by Artyem Komarov
For example, the Ecological Monitoring Program is the main document to regulate the scientific activity of the reserve. It was created as a part of the Marine Project. The program includes methods of data collection and analysis, which give us the possibility to track the dynamics of the nature processes. The approval of the Program became an important step to build a foundation for regular scientific and monitoring activities and for data storage on a new contemporary level.
The Strengthening the Marine and Coastal Protected Areas of Russia project included not only documentation development, but also purchase of the necessary scientific equipment to follow the instructions of the Program. For example, a marine vessel or a multifunctional probe to measure the main characteristics of water quality – electrical conductivity, temperature, hydrogen ion concentration and so on – in seconds and a lot of other devices and equipment.
Cetaceans monitoring ashore is an important part of cetacean research in the water area of the Commander Islands Reserve. Photo by Evgeny Mamaev
The implementation of the Marine Project became the most important part of the 30-mile water area protection. In this zone of the Commander Islands Reserve any commercial activity is banned, including fishing. However, before 2011 we had no control over the ships, which violated the borders of our protected water area. According to the project and in cooperation with Russian company Scanex, the Commander Islands Reserve installed an automatic system of vessels monitoring.
Another result of this project is an increase in attractiveness of the reserve for high-class specialists and organization of students’ field works. Biologist and Marine Mammals Specialist Alexander Sidorov came on the islands for the first time in 2014 as a student. In 2016 he defended his graduation thesis and became a part of the team of the largest marine reserve in Russia.
Alexander Sidorov during marine counts of cetaceans in the water area of the reserve. Photo by Alexander Sidorov
Another example is Anna Strokan, Environmental Education Department Specialist. She propelled the organization of our exhibitions, workshops and participation in festivals to a quality new level. Today the Commander Islands Reserve organizes educational events in Nikolskoye village on Bering Island, in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Moscow, Kirov, Kaliningrad and looking forward to expand the geography.
In fact, the implementation of the Marine Project did not only develope our facilities and resources, attracted new specialists, but also had an important metaphysical significance – the links, acquaintances, and friendships, which appeared because of this project, develop and continue to hearten and surprise us.
*Sea, My life – the name of the book, published in 2017 by UNDP and consecrated to marine nature reserves and national parks of the world.
The head photo is a fragment of Sea, My Life book. Source: the UNDP official site