Steller’s sea eagle is the world’s largest fish-eating raptor. The species is listed on the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List (Category VU, Vulnerable), on the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix II, in the Bonn Convention, in bilateral agreements on the protection of migratory birds between Russia and the USA, Japan, and South Korea, in the Red Book of Russia (Category III, Rare), and in the Red Book of Sakhalin Oblast (Category II, Rare).
Subject to Federal Law No. 52-FZ of 24 April 1995 On Wildlife (Articles 22 and 24), rare species protection involves a number of restrictive measures with regard to users that perform business activities in their habitat. Legal entities and citizens that undertake economic activities onshore and offshore, where animals included in the Red Books dwell, shall bear responsibility for the preservation, conservation, and reproduction of this wildlife in accordance with the laws of the Russian Federation and its constituent entities.
While developing the project feasibility study for Phase 2 of the Sakhalin-2 project, the Company developed measures to protect nesting areas of the Steller’s sea eagle located within potential impact zones of the production assets, in line with the requirements of Russian legislation and international best practices. Currently, Steller's sea eagles are monitored based on the approved Industrial Environmental Control (IEC) and Local Monitoring (LM) systems, and the Eagle Protection Plan is being implemented.
Of the two eagle species nesting in the north-east of Sakhalin Island, the Steller's sea eagle is numerically dominant over the white-tailed sea eagle and is therefore considered to be the main monitored species.
The objective of the monitoring is to assess the current status of sea eagles in the north-eastern part of Sakhalin (in the pipeline route area and Lunsky Bay) in order to develop impact mitigation measures for sea eagles during the operation of assets.
The following tasks are to be solved in the course of monitoring:
• Estimate the current number of Steller’s and white-tailed sea eagles in the impact and control areas,
• Map the eagles’ nests and nesting areas, and inspect nests and habitat conditions,
• Compare eagle nesting area conditions and productivity rates in the assets’ impact areas and in control zones of specially protected natural areas,
• Identify key natural and anthropogenic factors influencing the eagles’ population stability, including assessing the impact of bears and operations on eagle populations during the nesting period, and
• Develop additional measures to mitigate the impact on eagles during the operation of assets, if necessary.
The eagle monitoring programme has been implemented since 2004 in line with recommendations made by the State Environmental Expert Review regarding the Sakhalin-2 feasibility study. From 2004 to 2008, studies were carried out in the north-eastern part of Sakhalin (Lunsky, Nabil, Nyisky, Chaivo, and the southern part of Piltun Bay), in the lower parts of rivers, as well as in the impact zones of assets under construction, such as the pipeline and the Onshore Processing Facility (OPF). Surveys were conducted twice a year: in spring, at the beginning of the nesting period, and in summer, at the end of the nesting period, when nestlings are old enough to leave the nest. The spring census results were used to assess risks and optimise the timeframe for construction activities. Mitigation measures, which were strictly monitored, were developed for each identified active nesting site.
Since the completion of construction in 2010, which had the greatest impact during the nesting periods, spring surveys have no longer been carried out. The eagle population is currently monitored in the Nogliki district: within a 2 km corridor along the onshore pipeline route, within a 3 km area around OPF boundaries, and, for the purpose of representative comparison, in the control area on the northern shore of Lunsky Bay (Specially Protected Natural Area).
The total number of Steller's sea-eagle breeding sites on Sakhalin ranges between 520 and 550. The main portion of the population on Sakhalin (about 65%) is concentrated around lagoon bays on the north-eastern coast.
Analysis of nesting site occupancy and nesting success rates for sea eagles in the control area and in the potential pipeline impact area has shown similarity in their long-term trends for the two monitored areas, which demonstrates that they have a common response to a number of natural factors, most importantly weather conditions, food availability and abundance, and predation pressure by brown bears, who destroy these birds’ nests.
On the other hand, all sea eagles inhabiting the north-eastern part of the island are increasingly exposed to anthropogenic impacts due to the construction of new assets and roads and the development of fisheries, which leads to changes in habitats while causing greater anxiety of pairs at nesting and feeding sites.