A new nature reserve has been approved for Vaigach Island in the western Russian Arctic by the Nenets Autonomous District administration.
The new 243,000-hectare nature reserve will help protect threatened arctic species such as polar bears, Atlantic walrus, white-beak loon, and one of the region's largest mass nestings of waterfowls.
The island is surrounded by the Barents and Kara seas and its coastal waters are frequented by a number of marine mammals including Atlantic walrus, grey seal, harbour porpoise, bottlenose dolphin, humpback whale, northern blue whale, northern fin whale and sei whale. In recent years the numbers many of these species has become unstable.
WWF assisted in the creation of the nature reserve, which took two years to complete. It is hoped that the new protected area status will help protect the island from increasing industrial development in the region.
“We are satisfied that one of the most valuable places in the Russian Arctic is now under protection," said Oleg Sutkaitis, project coordinator of WWF's Barents Sea Ecoregion office.
"We hope to continue our success and develop more protected areas in the Nenets Autonomous District.”
Vaigach Island is also culturally significant for the indigenous Nenets people who have visited the island for thousands of years to worship their gods. The main Nenets sacred site is on Cape Dyakonov, where an idol depicting the seven-faced Vesako (the head of all Nenets deities) is surrounded by hundreds of small wood and stone idols.
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