Dalnevostochny-Morskoy Zapovednik

Safeguarding fragile, spectacular marine ecosystems in translucent blue-green waters of Peter the Great Bay is Dalnevostochny-Morskoy Zapovednik, 248 square miles (643 km2) in and on the Bay of Japan near the North Korean border.

Enormous numbers of birds on nesting islands here are able to nourish hatchlings on rich nutrients in this most biologically productive area in the Sea of Japan, the result of mixing of warm and cold sea currents and air masses within a complex structural relief of shore and ocean floors.

Starfish and sea anemones appear in multicolors from deep red to violet-blue. Giant octopi change colors to match their surroundings and surprise prey—crabs and bottom-dwelling fish—securing them with long suction-cup-fitted arms. Ascidians—sea squirts—filter plankton through red-orange saclike bodies, absorbing vanadium that colors their blood green—among more than 2,000 marine invertebrates.

Giant oysters cling to rocky surfaces as do mussels that can survive 100 years or more if their lives are not cut short by seals, marine birds, and others that prey on them.

Pacific cod, halibut, and other arctic fish dominate winter waters, replaced by over 100 warm-water species in summer—more than 278 fish species in all.

Harbor seals haul out and breed on protected islands where more than 360 bird species alight, many to nest, including ancient murrelets, spectacled guillemots, rare shelducks and Chinese egrets, three kinds of cormorants, arctic and red-throated loons, thin- and thick-billed murres. Largest nest colonies anywhere of black-tailed gulls and Japanese cormorants are here. More than 40,000 birds nest on Furugelm Island alone.

Raccoon dogs and Siberian polecats feed on marine mollusks, rodents, and small fish washed ashore. Sika deer graze and foxes and wild cats patrol coastal territory lined with rare stands of Japanese red pine. Under the forest canopy inland are rare Shlippenbach’s rhododendrons, among 900 terrestrial plant species.