World’s Deepest Lake Is Now In Crisis

Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake, located in eastern Siberia in Russia, is now under significant stress, according to UNESCO. The lake, which is about 5,500 feet deep, is now threatened by putrid algae, poaching, and pollution.

The UNESCO world heritage site is home to more than 3,600 species of plants and animals. It is dubbed as an “exceptional value to evolutionary science” and a tourist destination. The lake has been teeming with fish and the only source of the omul fish, which is a type of salmon. About one-fifth of all non-frozen fresh water in the world is in Lake Baikal, according to Newser.

The lake has been undergoing a crisis, one in which the scientists are trying to figure out. These include the disappearance of the omul fish, the growing population of putrid algae, and the loss of endemic species of sponges in its huge area. In 2015, it was also reported that the Baikal seal was threatened with extinction.

The Russian fisheries agency said that the government enforces banning the commercial fishing of omul, which started in October. It further said that the total biomass of omul in Baikal has more than halved for 15 years ago from 25 million tons to just 10 million. This is probably caused by uncontrollable fish poaching and pressure from the climate, according to Anatoly Mamontov, a local fishery biologist.

The Guardian reports that the lake is also threatened with the growth of algal blooms, in which the Spirogyra algae covers the sandy beaches. Scientists said that this means the lake could no longer take the human pollution.

“I am 150% sure that the reason is the wastewater runoff from towns without proper sewage treatment, particularly of phosphate-containing detergents,” said Oleg Timoshkin, a biologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Limnological Institute in Irkutsk.

Timoshkin added that the algae are pushing out oxygen-loving mollusks and crustaceans. He also examined 170 types of sponges in Baikal’s coast and only 11 percent looked healthy. He said that when you take a dead sponge to the surface it smells like a corpse. He further said that if the depositing of polluted water in the lake continuous, it will change severely.

Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin visited the lake in August and complained of “extremely high pollution.” He called the preservation of Lake Baikal a “government priority.”

A special 1999 law in Russia was implemented to protect Lake Baikal. Likewise, the Russian government also funded a cleanup program for treatment facilities amounting to 26 billion rubles or about $452 million USD, that started in 2012.

[Featured Image by Sbelov/Thinkstock]