Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands

Indroductory paper: Sustainable coastal development in northern Russia

Field research in the coastal regions of Northern Russia (White and Barents Sea region) has been developed, since 1992, by the Russian State Hydrometeorological University (RSHU), St.Petersburg, in cooperation with the Knipovich Institute for Polar Fisheries and Oceanography (PINRO, City of Murmansk), and the Kandalaksha State Reserve. Early research work (1992-1996) concentrated on hydrological, hydrochemical and hydrobiological monitoring of semi-enclosed water bodies [1]. The studies were carried out in the White Sea (Palkin Bay) and in the Barents Sea (Kislaya Bay). The objective was to provide hydrometeorological support to local stakeholders, such as a tidal power plant, cage salmon culture, an oil terminal, a state nature reserve, etc. [2]

Palkin Bay is an ideal training ground for: the development of principles for sustainable interaction between numerous resource users in the coastal zone; and the estimation of the ecological safety of their activities. The results of the monitoring are used by a number of local stakeholders in their practical work:

Thus the results obtained in Palkin Bay directly contribute to the elaboration of a regional plan for sustainable coastal development. 

Kislaya Bay is separated from the Barents Sea by the Kislogubskaja dam, which forms part of Russia’s first, and the World’s second, Tidal Power Plant (TPP). The Bay is a ‘natural and technical laboratory’ presenting unique opportunities to study physical, chemical and biological processes in the coastal zone of a northern sea. Experience gained in assessing the ecological situation in this TPP basin can be used when conducting ecological studies of TPP projects in the future, in particular, when assessing their ecological safety.

 The principal features of the training that students involved in the projects receive are:

 Since 1992, over 90 students have taken part in studies in northern Russia through this ‘Training-through-Research’ program. Using the data obtained, they have prepared 40 bacalaures, 10 masters and 3 PhD thesis. In June 2000 five students, from this program,  received ‘excellent’ notes from the State Examination Commission: 

  1. Olga Bilim – ‘Analysis of the ecological situation around the Kandalaksha sea port’ (bacalauria; supervisor Dr. M. Shilin),

  2. Tatjana Trunina – ‘Distribution and structure of biological communities in the northern part of the Gulf of Kandalaksha under the antropogenic pressure’ (bacalauria; supervisor Dr. M. Shilin),

  3. Andrey Kauroff – ‘Principles of ecological safety of the sea ports’ (bacalauria; supervisor Dr. M. Shilin),

  4. Oleg Stepanoff – ‘Estimation of the ecological hazards resulting from the reconstruction of the Kandalaksha sea port’ (bacalauria; supervisor Dr. S. Lukjanov),

  5. Oleg Andreev – ‘The quantitative model of the ice melting process - an example from the Gulf of Kandalaksha’ (MSc supervisor Dr. S.Lukjanov.

Olga Bilim, Tatjana Trunina and Andrey Kauroff are now continuing their studies at the RSHU - following the Masters Program. 

Socio-ecological research has been conducted in the Gulf of Kandalaksha (White Sea) since 1997. It is now sponsored by CSI and forms part of ones of its pilot projects. The goal is to define a strategy for sustainable development of the region. The first step was to study the sustainability of the coastal ecosystems under different kinds of anthropogenic pressure. Ecological changes resulting from different kinds of impact were apprised. Examples of environmentally friendly business development have been evolved and addressed to local administrations. Conflicts between private and state enterprises, with varying strategies towards the use of nature, have been studied to find possible solutions to existing environmental problems. Non-traditional aquaculture and new ways of using its products (in pharmaceuticals, thalassotherapy) were also studied. 

As the second step,  sociological analysis of the coastal communities was started. Stakeholder groups, involved in policy making, were assessed to acertain their attitudes to the use of natural resources. Their ‘ecological thinking’ was studied, with a view to reaching a consensus on environmental policies that might lead to sustainable development of the coastal region. 

The diversity of ecological thinking (goals, beliefs, approaches) was investigated using the Q-methodology [3]; an intensive methodology that makes it possible to map peoples’ attitudes to the subject under study - in this case the coastal zone environment. The Q-methodology is relatively cheap and quick. The study identified:

Despite a diversity of ecological thinking, many beliefs and attitudes are shared. These shared views will form the basis of environmental policy for the northern Russian coastal region; it is hoped that policy based on such consensus will attract widespread support.

 Eco-sociological research undertaken in 1999 and 2000 shows that small private businesses are developing to replace the big, state industries of the past. Such development, however, is slow. Over the past six years, the production indices of the principle industries in the Kandalaksha District have been unstable. This decline in economic development has had two very different consequences. The first is a lowering of environmental pollution levels in the last 3 to 4 years, due to a considerable decrease in industrial production  and in some cases the complete shutdown of  state enterprises. The second consequence is a general deterioration in the standard of living. With the loss of industry local society has fallen ill to spiritual nihilism and ensuing social and psychological deprivation. 

In this context social deprivation means forfeiture, limitation or lack of certain material or spiritual resources necessary to survival or development. Psychological deprivation is the state arising when people are not able to adequately satisfy needs essential to their development, for a long time. The consequence of such deprivation is long-lasting psychological detachment and opposition to those around. If someone is struggling to maintain a minimal standard of living they are unlikely to consider the ecological situation and environmental problems. So, before ecological problems can be confronted there is a need to improve the economic situation; maybe by initiating pilot projects that will help to set up small businesses. 

Between 1995-2000, the results of the studies  in Palkin Bay, Kislaya Bay and the Kandalaksha District have been presented and discussed at five international seminars on the ‘Rational Use of the Coastal Resources of the Northern Seas’, organized in the City of Kandalaksha with the assistance of the Kandalaksha State Nature Reserve. Some results have also been published in scientific journals and presented at an International Conference on ‘Integrated Coastal Area Management’ (St.Petersburg, September 2000). 


  1. The Baltic Floating University: Training through Research in the Baltic, Barents and White Seas – 1997. IOC Technical Series No 53, UNESCO 1998, 45 p.

  2. Khaimina O., Shilin M., Kluykov E., Lukianov S. Field Research within the UNESCO-IOC “Baltic Floating University- North” Programme. In: 30th Anniversary of the Oceanographic Faculty. RSHU, St. Petersburg, 2000: pp. 27-33 (in Russian).

  3. Shilin M., Durning D., Gajdamashko N. Beliefs Regarding Society and Coastal Zone Environments. In: BFU Research Bulletin No 3, 1999: pp. 85-93.

By: Michael Shilin, Olga Khaimina, Sergej Lukjanov, Yevgenij Klujkov
Russian State Hydrometeorological University

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