The island of Kolguyev. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Russian Arctic island becomes nature reserve

The unique birdlife on the island of Kolguyev needs protection, environmental authorities say.
June 25, 2019

The Kolguevsky nature reserve (zakaznik) is established in order to preserve and support biodiversity in the Barents Sea and the Arctic, regional authorities in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug inform as a stricter environmental regime is introduced on the island.

Kolguyev is located in the southeastern part of the Barents Sea

The small island located in the south-eastern Barents Sea, north of the Nenets coast, is considered a crucial area for migrating birds. It also is also inhabited by several endangered species.

The nature reserve only covers parts of islands and the protection regime allows for continued traditional industries such as reindeer herding and fishing. Its establishment is initiated by regional authorities and coordinated with the federal Ministry of Natural Resources, the Nenets government says.

The 3,500 square kilometer big island is inhabited mainly by indigenous Nenets people. The population totals about 400, of which about 250 are believed to work in the local oil industry.

In 2013, the island was hit by a major tragedy as the whole population of reindeer was extinguished following massive over-population. In 2012, the number of animals on Kolguyev was estimated to more than 12,000. Then, the herds completely collapsed. In 2016, there were reportedly only 153 animals left on the island. 

Oil production on the Kolguyev is operated by the Arctic Oil Company Ltd. (ANK). The company owns the license to the Peschanoozerskoe, the oil field located on the southeastern end of the island and that holds about 16 million barrels of recoverable reserves. Daily production amounts to 340 barrels a day. In 2016, the company was acquired by Urals Energy.