Ukraine: Tons of Fish Die; Fishing Enthusiasts Start Grassroots Campaign

Global Voices Online
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Numerous volunteers and fishing protection agency employees worked hard for over a month this past winter, breaking the unusually thick ice that covered the Kyiv Reservoir, enriching the water with oxygen - in order to save the fish in the reservoir from suffocating. When in early March the ecological emergency seemed to have almost passed, it turned out that these people's efforts had been in vain: hundreds of tons of fish ended up being trapped and crushed to death by the ice, after Ukrainian authorities, in an attempt to reduce the impact of an anticipated spring flood, abruptly lowered the level of water in the reservoir, which is located to the north of the Ukrainian capital and known locally as the Kyiv Sea.

Some experts doubt whether such a drastic measure was justified and consider the damage done to the reservoir's ecosystem catastrophic. Also, as the dead fish is beginning to rot, the quality of Kyiv's residential and drinking water supplies may, at some point, be affected (RUS).

In the wake of the disaster, a group of Ukrainian fishing enthusiasts who frequent (Fishing) - "an interactive portal for fishermen and hunters" (UKR, RUS) - launched a grassroots campaign to "consolidate experts and scientists (ichthyologists, hydrobiologists, ecologists), as well as active representatives of the fishing community" - and to ensure that further damage is avoided and the government takes steps to restore the ecosystem of the reservoir as much as possible over the next few years.

Ihor Tykholaz, an employee of the Kyiv branch of the state fishing protection agency and one of the initiators of the campaign, whose nickname is dozvil, wrote about the natural emergency made worse by the negligent and corrupt authorities (RUS) on his blog - and posted some photos there as well:

[...] For over a month, hundreds of people were working on the Kyiv Reservoir suffocation problem, breaking ice in three steps: manually, with ice axes, with chainsaws; they were making thousands of holes with air filters made of canes, they were drawing air under the ice with compressors, pouring water over ice into the holes, [...] deforming the ice cover.


We managed to stabilize the situation by the beginning of March, the level of oxygen in some spots even began to rise. And the thaw and melted water gave hope that [...] it would be possible to avoid the death of fish!

But [warm weather] brought with it a trap for dozens or perhaps even hundreds tons of fish. Schools of fish began moving towards fresh water - the so-called "sweet water" - enriched with oxygen due to the melting of snow, the water that started to appear in the shallow parts of the reservoir (and shallow waters make up 40 percents of the reservoir's water space, approximately 50,000 hectares). In that desperate situation that was the only option for the fish: at the end of winter, fish migration always occurs in the areas with higher levels of oxygen in the water...

And here a soulless bureaucrat was waiting for the fish, someone who signed the decision to drain water from the reservoir to the level that was even lower than the "dead point." An explanation: the usual average water level in the reservoir is 102.5 meters (above the level of the Baltic Sea), the "dead point" is 101.5 meters (below this mark, irreversible processes start taking place in the [water ecosystem]).

We wrote dozens of appeals to all kinds of authorities, spoke at all meetings about the situation with the flooding, but no one listened to our advice and requests.


It was all in vain, because at stake was the safety of rich [real estate developers]: the flood is ahead of us, and owners of the legendary Koncha-Zaspa mansions [expensive real estate south of Kyiv] perhaps fear it more than others. We aren't likely to ever find out who lobbied the interests of [the owners of] these elite plots. But there was pressure on members of the inter-departmental commission, some of its members told me about it [off the record] (I personally took part in two of these meetings).


Then it only gets worse. The inter-departmental commission of the [state water agency] decided to lower the level of water in the reservoir to 101 meters by April 1 - i.e., even lower than the "dead point" - what awaits us??? This cynical slaughter of the fish is taking place with the silent approval of dozens of officials who seen nothing but paperwork in their offices and jump up when their bosses call them on their phones... This half a meter will simply kill whatever remains alive [in the reservoir]...

This is truly a planned ecological catastrophe [...]. [...]

The fishing enthusiasts' campaign initially started online - in this thread (RUS, UKR) on, on March 15; as of now, the thread is 34 pages long. Some 70 people have now joined the campaign's Organizing Committee, following an offline meeting in Kyiv on Saturday, March 20 (photos on user vladf's blog; video and some paperwork (UKR, RUS) on user org's blog). An online petition (RUS) - "Save the Future of the Kyiv Reservoir" - has already been signed by more than 1,400 people. An appeal to the country's leadership has been drafted; outreach and fundraising efforts are gaining speed.

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