FSUE “Rosmorport” continues to support the Soul of the Caspian project on the study of the Caspian seal
FSUE “Rosmorport” has become a partner of the next stage of the Soul of the Caspian Sea expedition, aimed at studying and preserving the Caspian seal.
The company also supported the environmental project in the autumn of 2021. The first expedition within the framework of the project took place at that time. There were two stages: aerial observation and collection of biosamples from seals, as well as tagging seals with satellite-linked transmitters.
This year, at the initiative of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation, the aviation registration of seals is being carried out over the ice fields of the Russian part of the Caspian Sea. A scientific group consisting of experts on marine mammals of the Russian Federal “Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography” and the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, together with employees of the Clean Seas Foundation and United Telecom JSC, is conducting research using two types of Russian-made aircraft. The manned amphibious aircraft La-8 and drone aircrafts “DIAM-Aero” are equipped with optical and infrared video and photographic equipment. The joint use of a manned aircraft and drones can significantly improve the accuracy of animal population estimates.
The expedition takes place in the difficult climatic conditions of the Caspian Sea, with its unpredictability and the strongest February winds, but in this month the seal population gathers on the ice, where the birth of white coat pups and the subsequent mating of adult animals takes place.
Starting from 2020, seal population estimates on ice are carried out annually by Russian and Kazakh scientists within the joint research. However, this year, for the first time, a solid ice cover has been established not only in Kazakh, but also in the Russian sector of the Caspian Sea. The task of the Russian expeditionary group is to conduct an aerial survey of seals in the western, Russian zone of the Northern Caspian Sea, while Kazakh colleagues are performing similar work in the eastern part of the Caspian Sea.
To date, three flights on the La-8 aircraft with a total length of about 2,450 km and five drone flights with a total length of over 2,500 km have been carried out along the planned routes. The water area of more than 9 thousand square kilometers was surveyed. The availability of thermal imagers on board aircraft allows to find not only adult seals, but also white coat pups, which are invisible for human eye from a height. In the Russian part of the Northern Caspian, encounters with seals have been recorded along the southern edge of the ice fields adjacent to the Volga Delta. These are mostly individuals and small groups of 3-15 seals. The exact figures will appear after processing the materials obtained with the help of monitoring complexes.
The Caspian seal is one of the smallest seals on the planet. It is the only mammal of the Caspian Sea and also an indicator of its ecosystem. Over the past 100 years, the number of animals has decreased by 90%. To date, the number of Caspian seals, according to various sources, ranges from 100 to 300 thousand. In 2020, the Caspian seal was listed in the Red Book of Russia. It is not the first year when dead seals have been found on the Caspian coast (mainly on the territory of the Republic of Dagestan). At the end of 2022, the tragedy repeated on an even larger scale than before: more than 2,500 dead animals. General biological and necropsy studies have been carried out, but the cause of Caspian seals death has not been established so far.