Feature Story

A long, cold shore: Strengthening management effectiveness of marine protected areas in Russia

June 4, 2017

The task of conserving such remarkable biological diversity on such an immense scale, is a formidable one, which is further complicated by threats that include: marine pollution; invasive species; illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing; unsustainable exploitation of natural resources; unregulated tourism and, increasingly, climate change.

The Russian Federation encompasses more than a fifth of the world’s ocean shelf and has one of the longest coastlines in the world. This coastline weaves through thirteen seas and three oceans, and extends to some of the most isolated regions of the planet. Much of this area lies within the icy Arctic Circle.

Life thrives in these waters, which host over eight thousand species of fish and invertebrates and millions of sea birds and marine mammals. The task of conserving such remarkable biological diversity on such an immense scale, is a formidable one, which is further complicated by threats that include: marine pollution; invasive species; illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing; unsustainable exploitation of natural resources; unregulated tourism and, increasingly, climate change.

Russia has been tackling these challenges for over one hundred years through its conservation research and biodiversity protection efforts. Over the past several decades, it has strived continuously to improve its system of marine and coastal protected areas, but, in order to better address the emerging threats, the protected area system required strategic modernization and further strengthening.

To address this, the Government of Russia and UNDP joined forces to implement an ambitious project titled ‘Strengthening Marine and Coastal Protected Areas of Russia.’ With funding from the GEF, the project sought to strengthen the entire Russian marine and coastal protected area system by supporting the government’s efforts to expand the system, increase management effectiveness and build institutional capacity. The project operated at selected pilot sites, with the ultimate goal being to replicate these approaches in 35 marine and coastal protected areas across the whole of Russia.

Much of this work focused on the spectacular Commander Islands State Nature Biosphere Reserve, with support also given to the Far Eastern Marine Reserve, the newly established Russian Arctic and Onezhskoe Pomorie National Parks, and the proposed Ingermanland Reserve in the Gulf of Finland.