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16 Sep, 2010 06:05

Sakhalin Region: wild beauty and salmon

The Sakhalin Region is an exquisite region in Russia’s Far East, where its beauty is only matched by its unique wildlife.

It is also a land of tough men: Sakhalin is the site of an ongoing fight between border coastguards and poachers, whose annual turnover of illegal fishing amounts to millions of dollars.

Aleksandr Garbuz, serviceman, came to Sakhalin from the other side of Russia, and despite non-stop action and hard work, he enjoys his time here.

“We identified a vessel belonging to poachers,” Aleksandr said, recounting a recent chase. “We asked them to stop and fired flares. They didn’t reply, so after an hour we had to open fire. After about 20 minutes they stopped, probably being too scared of us shooting at them. That was one wild chase.”

Tucked in between the Russian mainland, Japan, and Sakhalin Island is the island of Moneron. Named after a French seafarer who discovered it, it is described as the pride of the Sakhalin region.

Until 2004, the island was completely restricted to visitors. Now this picturesque place is open to tourists.

“The island is unique because it is located far from the mainland and is practically untouched by humans,” says Natalya Kruglova, ecologist. “That is why many endangered species of both flora and fauna can be found here. The underwater world here is also unique because of warm currents in the sea. Moneron is by right the pearl of the Far East.”

Her words are confirmed by Dmitry Medvedev, a professional diver who has been exploring the depths of the world’s seas for several decades.

“The water here is very clear, the visibility is very good. And the underwater world here is extremely rich. I have been to many diving locations across the planet – including the island of Bali – but Moneron tops my list,” he says.

While some go to the Sakhalin region to enjoy the sights, others convert the island’s natural riches into a healthy dollar. It is home to the biggest seafood processing factory in Russia – the Tunaicha. A good fishing season can bring the enterprise’s owner more than a hundred million dollars net profit.

A mild climate, unique natural sights and delicious seafood – Sakhalin can offer a diverse holiday for those who are not afraid to travel 10,000 kilometers from Europe. The question is whether this distant land will ever be able to become a major tourist destination.