Experts still cannot find the cause of the sudden death of marine animals and discoloration of the water that occurred a week ago around the East Russian peninsula of Kamchatka. Greenpeace gave the first results of their own sample survey on Wednesday, but they are inconclusive. How are things now in Kamchatka?
Notable landfill site now ruled out as a disaster origin
Last week, dozens of dead marine animals, ranging from squid to seals, suddenly washed up on the beaches of the Kamchatka peninsula. Greenpeace activists reported yellowish foam on the water and discoloration in the water was also seen from research aircraft. Eleven residents of Kamchatka suffered minor eye complaints after coming into contact with the water.
Since then, many samples of the water have been taken and several expeditions have taken place to find the source of this “ecological disaster”.
Samples taken by both Greenpeace and the Russian authorities do not yet provide a clear answer. According to Greenpeace, it remains possible that human action is the cause, but the cause can also be natural.
During boat trips around Kamchatka no striking things have been seen. For example, local animal populations of seals and sea otters would not show any abnormal behavior and there are also different fish species living in the bays of the peninsula.
Shortly after the disaster, the Kamchatka local government focused on a pesticide dump, Kozelsky. Chemicals may have flowed from Kozelsky into a nearby river, perhaps even through groundwater.
However, water around Kozelsky now appears to contain no significant amounts of chemicals, reports the local government, so Kozelsky is ruled out as a possible culprit. However, other landfill sites on the peninsula are still being examined.
At first, critics also pointed to a local military base in the area, Radygin. This would include rocket fuel, which may also leak into the water. However, local authorities insist that Radygin is now a shooting range and not used to store pollutants.
Volcanic activity has also been investigated. However, the closest volcanoes that are currently active are at least 300 kilometers away from Kamchatka. This is too far away to have affected the marine life.
Research by the Russian Academy of Sciences points to poisonous algae as the most likely culprit. This could explain the discoloration and eye complaints in humans, but only part of the animal deaths.
Scientists believe that the algae in question mainly affect vertebrates, such as seals. But a lot of invertebrates, such as mussels, octopuses and crabs, have died in the Eastern Russian water.