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    Sakhalin Region

Geography

Sakhalin (Karafuto in Japanese) is a very long (1000 km) but narrow island located between Japan and Russian Maritime Territory. It is separated from Asian continent by a narrow strait of 6 km width and for that reason, first, Westerners thought it should be a peninsula. With the Kuril Islands, Sakhalin is one of the territories disputed between Japan and Russia and its belonging has not yet been definitely settled.

The Sakhalin Region includes the island of Moneron and the Kuril chain of islands. Sakhalin Island is separated from the Far East Russian mainland by the Tartar Strait and from the Japanese Island of Hokkaido by the Perouse Strait. The island is approximately the same area as Scotland and has a population of about 650,000.

There are three seasons in Sakhalin - winter, spring/summer and autumn. Winter usually lasts from the beginning of November to the end of April and can vary between very severe Arctic-like conditions to cold and wet European conditions. During the summer there is a good deal of rain, whilst in autumn that is usually quite short there are many glorious days with clear blue skies.

Nature

Sakhalin is the largest island in Russia and one of 100 largest Islands in the world, interesting both geographically and historically. Its geographical location is unique; it is separated from the continent and from Japan by three straits, bathed by the cold Sea of Okhotsk and the warm Japanese Sea. The seas washing the coast of Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands are among the most productive areas of ocean in the world.

Nearly two-thirds of the Sakhalin area is mountainous. Lopatin Mountain is the highest, at 1,609 m. The Northern part of the island is a swampy plain covered with deciduous taiga, while mountains of the central and southern parts of the island are covered with forests. There are two mud volcanoes, more than 60 thousand rivers and streams, and about 16,120 lakes on the island. Sakhalin is attractive for its oil, coal and timber resources.

Sea of Okhotsk

Though the Sea of Okhotsk off the eastern coast of Russia is almost entirely covered in ice during the winter months, it is one of the most productive marine environments in the world during the late spring and summer months. During the summer, commercial fisheries originating from as far away as Poland ply these waters for walleye pollock, flounder, herring, Pacific salmon, halibut, Pacific sardine, Pacific saury, cod, capelin, sand eel, smelts, crab, and shrimp.

Marine resources

The seas, washing the coast of Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands, are among the most productive areas of ocean in the world. This basin is Russias largest fishing ground. Many valuable species of food fish thrive in these waters: salmon, herring, flounder, mackerel, cod, rasp, and halibut, and they account for 90 % of the annual catch.

Among the regions richest biological resources is the Pacific Salmon of several varieties, including: hunchback salmon, Siberian salmon, sima, and red salmon.

The shelf of Sakhalin and the Kuril islands is favorable for the harvesting of crab, shrimp, bivalve, and mussels. Squids are also taken when they enter the Tatar Channel during the summer season.

Kuril Islands

Discovered and first charted in 1739 as part of Russias Great Northern Expedition, the Kurils are a chain of 56 variously sized islands, arced like stepping-stones between Kamchatka and the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Blistering winter winds, fog-smothered summers, chronic storms, volcanic eruptions, bubbling fields of sulfur, earthquakes, tidal waves, noxious seaweed-scented air, and blood-sucking swarms of mosquitoes the Kurils is the home of all these natural womders.

The combination of great distances between the Kurils and the mainland, deep channels between islands, and strong ocean currents created major barriers to plant and animal dispersal, so that species evolved distinctly in their place of origin. Thus each island has its own unique geological and biological history, allowing scientific glimpses into a rare, spectacular spectrum of biodiversity. The Kuril Islands today are one of the last biologically unknown places in the world. The Kuril Islands form part of the Pacific 'Ring of Fire'. There are about twenty major islands, all of which are the summits of volcanoes that rise from the seabed starting at depths of about 3000 m. The arc is quite active, with eruptions nearly every year, and most of the peaks are quite youthful and symmetrical in form. The climate is cold and wet, with snowfall in winter and rainfall year round, and only the northernmost and highest peak, Alaid, bears a few small glaciers. Only a few of the Kurils are inhabited, and access is quite difficult to all except the southernmost island, Kunashir (home to the strikingly beautiful volcano of Tyatya). There is irregular ferry service to the other inhabited islands and no air service, so any trips there would probably require a private boat or floatplane for access.

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