Gazprom Neft has announced the launch of a major programme investigating a rare Arctic creature (listed in the “Red Book” — a directory of Russia’s most endangered species) — the “narwhal” (Latin name Monodon Monoceros — literally the “sea unicorn”), with Gazprom Neft CEO Alexander Dyukov having presented the initiative, “The Narwhal — Legend of the Arctic” at a meeting of the Russian Geographical Society’s Board of Trustees, chaired by President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin on 27 April, 2018, in St Petersburg.
This unique project, being undertaken under the auspices of the Russian Geographical Society, will assess the current status of the narwhal population in the western sector of the Russian Arctic Zone, determining the total number and the distribution of the species, as well as putting in place a conservation programme to protect the narwhal and its habitat — no comprehensive studies into this species having ever been undertaken, to date.
Plans for the expedition include researching the waters of the north—east Barents and Kara Seas with the help of an ice-class research vessel, undertaking bio-acoustic research, measuring environmental parameters, and marking several of this rare species with the help of satellite transmitters, allowing migrations to be monitored. Based on this research a distribution map will be drawn up, a detailed scientific report compiled, and proposals put forward on strategies for conserving the populations of this rare creature. Gazprom Neft also plans to involve its Arctic fleet and helicopters in collecting data on the narwhal.
In addition to this, the research will form the basis of a major media project intended to draw attention to the conservation of the narwhal through television programmes, a documentary, a specialist website and project reports on social media.
Gazprom Neft CEO Alexander Dyukov commented: “The economic development of the Russian North must take place concurrently with the preservation of its fragile and unique ecosystem. Gazprom Neft is the recognised leader in the commercial development of the Russian Arctic and is, already, implementing several extensive and challenging programmes on environmental research and protection in this region. Our joint project with the Russian Geographical Society on studying the narwhal is intended to preserve the population of this creature, listed in the Red Book.”
The narwhal is a rare species of cetacean (whale), found in the waters of the Russian Arctic. It make seasonal migrations, seeking out the deep slopes found around drifting ice. The total population of this species, and the specific biology of these animals in Russian waters is unknown, as are the lengths of their migrations and the boundaries of their habitats.
Gazprom Neft’s collaboration with the Russian Geographical Society was initiated in 2010 and continues to this day. Several geographic expeditions have been organised in collaboration with the company, documentaries produced on nature and the environment in Russia, conferences and exhibitions held, an archive established at the Russian Geographical Society, and work organised on the “Arctic Floating University”.