The Association’s experts have repeatedly drawn attention to the systemic risks for the unique marine ecosystems located near the Crimea, from ill-considered, predatory economic activities of the Russian invaders. In particular, the “ARC” publications described both the processes of illegal extraction of sea sand in the Karkinit Bay for the construction needs of the invaders, and the personalities of the representatives of the aggressor army forces, collaborators and common-criminal gangs’ leaders of the Crimea and Russia involved in these processes.

The experts also emphasized the cynicism of the Russia’s invaders, who “recognized” formally the “regime of nature protection zones” for such water-coastal reservations as “Minor [Small] Phyllophora Field”, “Swan [Lebyazhyi] Islands” and “Karkinitsky”, which were established as protected in advance by Ukraine, but in fact, Russia use these zones exclusively as for allegedly “substantiation” of its aggressor’s effective control over the Ukrainian sea and for its “border guards” and invaders-controlled structures, extracting sand in the Karkinit Bay, permanent residing. It is generally known that now the ships and boats of the “Coast Guard of the Border Guard Service of the FSB of Russia” are harboring illegal sand extraction in the Karkinit Bay by the “Pechora”, “Trofa”, “Irtysh” and “Amur” dredgers.

At the same time, by the decree of the Russian Government No. 1091 in 2018 a “state natural reservation of federal significance” “Minor Phyllophora Field” was allegedly “created”, allegedly “within the limits” of the corresponding “botanical reserve”. Let us recall that this purely marine natural reservation was actually established by the decree of the President of Ukraine in 2012 No. 527 in coordinates covering the waters of the Karkinit Bay both close to the AR of Crimea and close to the shores of the Kherson Region. Therefore, it is not surprising that in May 2021 a Ukrainian Navy’s patrol boat P191 “Starobelsk” was sent to patrol and illuminate the surface situation in the Karkinit Bay.

At the same time, it is important to constantly monitor the actual situation with maritime ecosystems that are declining from pirate sand mining in the Karkinit Bay by the occupiers. Therefore, “ARC” experts studied satellite images of the Karkinit Bay, made in May-June 2021 by the mission of the European Space Agency ‘Sentinel’, implemented within the framework of the ‘Copernicus’ program. Systematic observation proved that the erosion of the Bakalska [Bakal] Spit continues in the Karkinit Bay, which began precisely because of the extraction of sea sand by the occupiers, and the northern part of this spit, which has generally become an island since 2017, is gradually decreasing.

At the same time, the sand eroded from the Bakalska Spit partially settles to the bottom of the “Minor Phyllophora Field” to the north of this spit, which prolongs the destruction of its unique ecosystem, begun by invaders’ barbaric sand mining. It is noteworthy that the indicated erosion of the Bakalska Spit and the increase in the depths of the eastern part of the Karkinit Bay due to sand extraction led to a change in the currents in it and, accordingly, to an increase in sea alluvial soil to the shores of the northern part of the bay, administratively related to the Ukraine’s Kherson Region. In particular, a bank is noticeable on the satellite map in the center of the Karkinit Bay, as of June 2021 it was washed almost to the sea surface in the water area of the former “Minor Phyllophora Field”, and it actually becomes a new island, in continuation of the ridge of sandy Kalanchak Islands.

So it is precisely due to the ill-conceived economic activity of the Russian invaders that the area of the coastal zone of the AR of Crimea in the Karkinit Bay will continue to decrease, and the area of the coastal zone of the Kherson Region will increase there during the next period. We add that in 2019, the Head of the Kherson Regional State Administration issued the Prescript on the need to create the wildlife reservation of local importance, as part of the Kalanchak Island and the Karadai Spit, starting near the village of Razdolnoye, of the Kalanchaksky District, and of their water areas accordingly. The total area of the new maritime-onland reservation is 3600 hectares. On October 18, 2020, the Kherson Regional Council created by its Decision No. 1855, an ornithological reservation “Kalanchak Island” with an area of 1,730 hectares. At the same time, the boundaries of these protected natural objects have not yet extended to the new islands emerging in the bay, which are an indisputable geographical continuation of the corresponding wetlands of mainland Ukraine.

At the same time, it should be added that the uncontrolled extraction of sea sand by the occupiers and the above-mentioned changes in the depths, currents and relief of the Karkinit Bay’s bottom have led to negative consequences for mainland Ukraine. After all, above-pointed alluvium of sand has, among other things, led to the degradation of shipping to the Skadovsk Port and the Horly Port-point, and thus created challenges for legitimate economic activity in the Kherson Region in the areas of merchant shipping, fishing and recreation.