Tatarstan manages to stop a fall in quantity of sturgeon

The Tatarstan State Committee for Bioresources sums up its performance in 2019

Tatarstan manages to stop a fall in quantity of sturgeon
Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov

Five more specially protected natural areas will appear in Tatarstan in 2020, another 30 red deer will be released into forests, and hundreds of thousands of sturgeon will be released into water bodies. All this was said at a final session of the Tatarstan State Committee for Reproduction of Biological Resources. Read more in Realnoe Vremya’s report.

Lakes die and unique soils disappear in Tatarstan

Tatarstan does its best to save the flora and fauna of the republic — unique representatives of the world of animals, insects, birds, plants. Today Tatarstan has 186 specially protected natural areas. The total area of reserves is over 57,000 ha, which is equal to 6,3% of the whole area of the republic. Five more such territories appeared last year, while the area increased by 43,000 ha. Volga Vast Expanse project became the biggest one whose area is the size of four districts and is designed to save the landscape of the Volga River and become calm reproduction of water biological resources.

“Moreover, nowadays projects on another five areas of this kind are in the final stages today,” said Chairman of the State Committee Fyodor Batkov. Scientific rationale and legal recognition of the territories’ new status is coming to an end this year.

But this is little, the Academy of Sciences of Tatarstan is sure. Director of the Institute of Environmental Problems and Minerals Use of the Academy of Sciences of Tatarstan, Doctor of Chemical Sciences Rifgat Shagidullin who was deliberately invited to the session raised several topical issues. He particularly talked about a sad situation in lakes — natural sites of regional importance. They total 37 in the republic. At the moment.

“The water bodies in Laishevo and Vysokaya Gora Districts that are laden with a specially high anthropogenic load are causing the greatest concern. As a rule, these lakes don’t have water protection zones, water intake sites and even riverbanks are built up, which reduces water intake, lands are cultivated, and this decreases water intake. This leads to soil erosion, sludge settles down in water bodies, water bodies become full of plants, biodiversity reduces. Artesian wells are dug in allotments and private households lead to a fall in groundwater recharge or its complete loss. There are examples of how sand quarries appear near a natural landmark. As for the biggest problems, several lakes in Laishevo District have lost from 53% to 82% of the water in decades,” the scientist said.

Rifgat Shagidullin noted significant disproportion in number and areas of natural protected zones in different Tatarstan districts. Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov

If urgent measures aren’t taken in the short term, these lakes will simply disappear, and their unique flora and fauna will disappear with it. Talking about the development of protected natural territories in general, Rifgat Shagidullin noted significant disproportion in number and areas of protected natural zones in different Tatarstan districts. Saba, Baltasi, Zainsk, Pestretsy, Tyulachi, Kamskoye Ustye, Chistopol, Yutazy and Spass Districts have habitats of animals, birds, insects, fish, rare and disappearing plants from the Red List though do little to create specially protected islands of nature.

Moreover, the republic in general pays little attention to creating soil reserves. Meanwhile, scientists already rank chernozyom as a type of soil that is going into extinction. The academy of sciences is ready to take the initiative and create natural landmarks to save perfect, rate, disappearing and unique soils.

Tatarstan as one Volga region outsiders in forests and leader in productivity in hunting ground

Tatarstan has few forests. Even too few. Only 17,2% of the regional territory is covered with forests. The state of affairs is worse only in Samara (12,7%) and Saratov (6%) Oblasts. The leaders are Perm Krai (72,8%), Kirov Oblast (63,5%), the Republic of Mari El (55,6%). However, Tatarstan is an undoubted leader in productivity of hunting ground, it reached 128% of the target. The same indicator in Perm Krai is just 54%, while Kirov Oblast has even a 17% fall.

The total economic value of hunting ground of Tatarstan amount to 1,6 billion rubles, of which 76% are for ungulates — an elk, a roe deer, wild boar. The indicator tripled in the last five years. There are much more elks, the population of roe deer is almost three times bigger. Not only those dealing with winter calculation of wild animals but also simple residents of Tatarstan who often see elks, roe deer and wild boards near highways and who got lost in the city note it.

The measures taken allowed to increase the number of European hares, wood grouses, grouses, partridges, marmots, beavers. A fall in the number of badgers, European hares, grouses, partridges in particular was seen in hunting households such as Wood Grouse (minus 32,7%), Tyurneseyev (a decrease by 35,6%), Kama Riverbank (negative dynamics of 65,7%) and Bakhchisaray (a reduction by 72,5%).

“I remind that hunters are obliged to deal with not only economically profitable hunting resources but also maintain mass species of animals at a due level, they are a source of the hunt for most hunters of the republic,” Batkov claimed.

Semi-free game breeding is gaining in popularity in Tatarstan. Here Tatarstan is again the undoubted leader in the Volga region: elks, wild boars, sika deer, fallow deer, ducks and pheasants are kept in 70 out of 22 hunting households. A part of them is bred to release them to wild nature further. 52,000 ducks were released in Alekseyevsk District, 50 deer were released across the republic. It is interesting that now the wild population of deer is already 310. The deer settled down and actively reproduces. It is planned to release another 30 species in 2020.

The wild population of deer is already 310. Photo: Arseny Favstritsky

Amendments to the law on hunting that allows hunting in open-air cages were adopted at federal level in February. This is to stimulate hunters to develop this area more actively.

However, the number of wild boars reduced in the last five years. Detection of wild boars with African swine fever virus in the republic’s neighbouring regions remains a hot-button issue. Cattle are regulated in buffer zones to prevent ASFV from entering the Republic of Tatarstan.

Anti-rabies measures are actively taken. Over 1,5 million doses of vaccines are placed in the predators’ habitats. Also, regulation is used to prevent surplus cattle. The number of foxes is stabilised at the bar of 8,500 species. The steps taken allowed achieving a considerable fall in the number of rabies: if there were 145 cases in Tatarstan in 2015, in 2019, there were just 15.

The number of foxes is stabilised at the bar of 8,500 species in Tatarstan. Photo: Arseny Favstritsky

Quantity of sturgeon begins to grow in Tatarstan

Last year, inspectors of the Tatarstan State Committee for Bioresources, employees of the fish inspection, public and industrial inspectors together with representatives of law enforcement agencies of the republic carried out thousands of raids. Kilometres of illegal fishing tools were taken away. The measures taken to protect water bioresources in combination with big programmes aimed to reproduce fish reserves yield fruits: Firdaus Shakirova, the vice director of the Tatarstan office of Russian Federal Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography — a scientific centre evaluating the state of fish reserves in the Kuybyshev and Nizhmekamsk Water Reservoirs — notes not only a rise in the number of traditional species like common bream, common carp, pike, wels catfish and fish caught in a densely-meshed net such as zope, common bleak, sprat, crucian carps and that the limits on fishing can be raised without harm to nature. Most importantly, the reduction of the population of a species from the Red List — Volga sturgeon — stopped in Tatarstan.

The protection measures taken in Tatarstan allowed stopping the reduction in the quantity of Volga sturgeon. Photo: Arseny Favstritsky

“Analysis of dynamics of sturgeon stock in the last years had shown that the reduction in the sturgeon stock ended. Artificial fish stocking and reproduction in their traditional habitat helped it. Natural self-reproduction plays an important role in the conservation of the sturgeon population. 10 spawning grounds were marked and listed as specially protected areas in Tatarstan. All kinds of works linked with the use of minerals have been forbidden since 2016 during the spawning period on the territory. Such protection measures helped stabilise the number, and growth is seen,” the scientist noted.

The volume of young sturgeon will augment in the future. Nowadays the construction of the second stage of a fishing facility is ending near Kazan, thanks to it the volumes of augmented young fish from the Red List will rise to 5 million a year.

By Arseny Favstritsky