Webinar “Using satellite technology for the study and protection of Arctic mammals”

Natalya Yevtushenko is an expert of the operative satellite monitoring department at the ScanEx research and development center and a junior research associate at the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

During the webinar, Natalya Yevtushenko made a presentation and answered questions from the audience.

How long did collecting the satellite data take? How many years does the data set cover?

We collected data from the end of June till the end of September, from 2011 till 2014. We selected regions to carry out the survey. Some regions could not be surveyed at the end of June because they were covered with snow, and others were unsuitable in September.

What satellites provide the information, only foreign ones or Russian as well?

Our company receives information only from foreign satellites, we have not used Russian satellites so far.

Is there a common database for the satellites? Can any companies look into this shared data base and obtain information?

Yes, I believe, every foreign company has its own database and we do too. It is organized as a geoportal where you can designate your area of interest and receive information on which satellites surveyed this area at a certain period, or choose the satellites. All this also exists in the form of an interactive map. 

Now a question about uncovering violations and navigation control with the help of satellites. Some ships illegally cross haul-outs of marine mammals. What should be the size of such ships to be spotted by a satellite?

If we take the automatic identification system, they should have a displacement of over 300 tons, but they are not the largest ships, not huge tankers, they can be 50 meters long. As for crossing haul-outs… This is a violation of recommendations on the route, so it does not entail any liability. When the ships return to the port, the only thing to do is to tell them that they crossed a haul-out and ask them not to do this in the future. Ships are clearly visible in the picture, it depends on the ground sample distance.

What is the price of a satellite image?

We have contacts on the web site. Taking photos from space is a rather costly affair. Everything depends on your goal and the satellites you choose. At present, we can receive about 15 satellites at our station, they are used for different purposes and the price is, naturally, different. 

What is the minimum price?

I cannot answer that question now. In the past, when we did the walrus habitat survey project an image cost about 30,000 rubles but a dollar also cost about 30 rubles. Now, probably, 100,000 rubles or more. We cooperate with foreign companies and a lot depends on the exchange rate.

Do foreign companies ask you for information?

Greenpeace did once, not the Russian office. We were receiving data and they were tracking a whale boat, as far as I remember. Our space data receiving stations are located in Europe, America and Asia. Basically, we have a lot of partners but we don't have any foreign clients at the moment.

Could you sum up the situation and say how the walrus population changed over the last few years? What is the current trend?

Walruses live in the Arctic, which is a rather complicated region. Their habitat is scattered all over the Arctic. It was difficult to determine their number. For example, you saw the Tsvetkov Spit where the haul-out grew four times larger during a day. The Marine Mammal Council says that their number has not changed.  They are simply very worried by the active prospecting for deposits on the Barents Sea shelf, but this is not affecting the Atlantic walrus population so far.

Do you cooperate with scientific organizations? Not commercial or environmental  protection ones but scientific?

Yes, we cooperate with the Moscow State University of Geodesy and Cartography, the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology (where I am a junior research associate), the Sevastopol branch of the Zubov Institute of Oceanography, the Murmansk Marine Biological Institute, and Lomonosov Moscow State University, of course. We have a department that deals exclusively with cooperation with scientific organizations and we have stations at many scientific organizations.