Steller’s sea eagle is the world’s largest fish-eating bird of prey. This species is listed on the IUCN (International Union of Conservation of Nature) Red List (Category VU, Vulnerable), on CITES (the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species) Appendix II, on the Bonn Convention, in bilateral agreements on the protection of migratory birds between Russia and the USA, Japan, and South Korea, on the Red Book of Russia (Category III, Rare), and on the Red Book of the Sakhalin Oblast (Category II, Rare). Pursuant to Federal Law On Wildlife Protection No. 52 dated 24 April 1995 (Articles 22 and 24), the protection regime for rare species includes a number of restrictive measures for users who perform business activities in these species’ habitats. Legal entities and citizens who implement economic activities onshore and offshore where animals included in the Red data books dwell shall bear responsibility for the preservation and conservation and reproduction of this wildlife in accordance with the laws of the Russian Federation and its constituent entities.
As early as the Sakhalin-2 project Phase 2 feasibility study stage (TEOC), Sakhalin Energy Sakhalin Energy used the results of baseline studies to develop measures to protect the nesting areas of Steller’s sea eagle located within the production assets potential impact area, in line with Russian laws and international best practices. The company monitors Steller’s sea eagles under the approved IEC and LM system and implements Mitigation Plan for Steller’s sea eagle and white-tailed eagle during construction, modification and operation of production assets.
The objective of the monitoring is to assess the current status of sea eagles in the north-eastern part of the Sakhalin island (pipelines route and the Lunsky Bay) to develop impact mitigation measures for sea eagles during the assets operation.
The objectives of the monitoring programme are to:
• estimate the current number of Steller’s and white-tailed sea eagles in the impact and control areas;
• map eagles nests and nesting areas, and inspect nests and habitats condition;
• compare eagle nesting areas condition, productivity rates in the assets impact areas and specially protected natural areas being under control;
• identify key natural and anthropogenic factors influencing the eagles’ population stability, including estimate of bears and production operations effect during nesting period;
• develop additional measures to mitigate impact on eagles in the course of assets operation, if necessary.
The eagle monitoring programme has been implemented since 2004 in line with recommendations made by the State Environmental Expert Review in respect of the Sakhalin-2 TEOC. From 2004 to 2008, the surveys covered the area which included all bays (Lunsky, Nabil, Nyisky, Chaivo and South Piltun), lower parts of rivers as well as the areas of impact of assets under construction, such as the pipeline route and onshore processing facility (OPF). The surveys were conducted twice a year: in spring, during the early nesting period, and in summer, during the late nesting period, when chicks have already improved in strength and are preparing to leave the nest. The spring census results were used to assess the risks and allowed to optimise the timeframe for construction activities. For each identified active nesting site, impact mitigation measures were developed, introduction of which was strictly controlled by Sakhalin Energy.
With the completion of construction in 2010, which have the most intense impact during the nesting period, are no longer conducted in spring. The monitoring of the eagle population is now carried out in the Nogliki District: within the 2 km corridor along the onshore pipelines route, within the 3 km area around OPF boundaries, and in the control area at a distance of up to 2 km from the northern part of Lunsky Bay shoreline (Specially Protected Natural Areas) for the purpose of representative comparison.
The overall number of Steller’s sea eagle nesting sites in Sakhalin amounts to 52−-550. Most of the Sakhalin Island Steller’s sea eagle population (about 65 %) is concentrated around lagoon bays of the north-eastern coast.
The analysis of variations in nesting site occupancy in the control area and the pipeline impact area in 2004−2019 indicates a sustainable downward trend in the number of nesting (breeding) eagle pairs. It is evident that the situation is typical of the whole population of eagles inhabiting the north-eastern coast of Sakhalin, and it is not a specific feature of the territory under consideration. A recent years’ decline in Pacific salmon, a key food for eagles, may be a natural reason for this.
In 2012, a Steller’s Sea Eagle book, containing detailed information on this protected species of birds, was published. The annual eagles monitoring results can be found in the Sustainable Development Reports, which are also available on the Sakhalin Energy website.