Founding of the Amur-Okhotsk Consortium

Shinichiro Tabata (Professor, SRC)

  An international symposium on “Environmental Conservation of the Sea of Okhotsk: Cooperation between Japan, China and Russia” was held on 7-8 November as part of the Hokkaido University Sustainability Weeks 2009. Led by the Pan-Okhotsk Research Center, Institute of Low Temperature Science at Hokkaido University, the symposium was organized in cooperation with several institutions including the Slavic Research Center*1 . International conferences on the theme of environmental preservation and conservation of the Sea of Okhotsk have been held since 2006 on a bilateral basis such as between Japan and Russia, or Japan and China*2 . However, what made this international symposium groundbreaking was the participation of researchers from three countries including Japan, Russia and China. Furthermore, the biggest achievement was the founding of the Amur-Okhotsk Consortium, an international network of scientists for intensive discussion on the future of the sustainable development in Amur-Okhotsk Region following the drawing up of a joint declaration.

Some of the speakers presented their findings based on the results of research conducted at the Institute of Low Temperature Science and the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature which clearly took into serious consideration and identified the significant role of the Sea of Okhotsk on fishery catches in the Pacific Ocean. Furthermore, several works revealed the critical function of the inflow from the Amur to the Sea of Okhotsk while some emphasized that the relation between the Sea of Okhotsk and Amur River should be called as “the giant fish breeding forest” and preserved as a whole or as one system.

Other participants pointed that such kind of remarkable research and investigation have developed in line with the collaboration between Japan and Russia, China and Russia, and Japan and China, which is a result of the end of the Cold War and of the resolution of border conflicts between China and Russia. The establishment of the consortium owes much to this improvement in international relations.

The “Joint Declaration by Researchers toward Environmental Conservation of the Sea of Okhotsk and Surrounding Regions” that has been adopted at the symposium includes the following main points: (1) consortium meeting should be conducted once every 2 years to exchange opinion and information; (2) while this marks the first meeting of such kind, the second meeting will be held in 2011 in Sapporo; (3) the provisional secretariat should be established at the Pan-Okhotsk Research Center, Institute of Low Temperature Science; (4) the provisional secretaries appointed are Naoto Ebuchi (Institute of Low Temperature Science), Peter Baklanov (Pacific Institute of Geography of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences), and Da Zhigang (Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences). This groundbreaking symposium will become a historical benchmark for the development of research regarding environmental conservation of Pan-Okhotsk Region.

Joint Declaration by Researchers toward the Environmental Conservation of the Sea of Okhotsk and Surrounding Regions

  1. The Sea of Okhotsk is not only an important source for rich marine resources as the exclusive economic zones for Russia and Japan, but also for neighboring Asian countries such as China and Mongolia that do not share direct boundaries with the Sea. Moreover, since the Sea lies in the southern boundary of the seasonal sea ice in the northern hemisphere and affected by the warm and cold currents, it is home to a distinct ecosystem and has evolved into a rich biodiversity.
  2. With the progress in scientific research in recent years, it has been revealed that the primary production and the biodiversity that depends on the Sea of Okhotsk and the neighboring Oyashio region is greatly affected by and mutually dependent on not only the sea waters but also land. Amongst these, the largest river that flows into the Sea of Okhotsk, the Amur River, supplies a great amount of dissolved iron to both the Sea of Okhotsk and the Oyashio sea waters, which contributes to the high primary production of these sea waters. This discovery has been made by our research efforts that identified the physical and biological linkage between the land-surface environment on a continental scale and the open seas. In other words, the Sea of Okhotsk and the neighboring Oyashio region as well as the Amur River form an enormous ecosystem that transcends the boundaries between sea and land. It is a special and great concern for countries of the Amur River region and for the countries neighboring the Sea of Okhotsk to identify the unique mechanism of the ecosystem and to consider the future of the natural environment of the Amur-Okhotsk ecosystem.
  3. In recent years, various human activities in the Northeast Asian region have resulted in the deterioration of the water quality of the Amur River and there are concerns about the effect this will have on the natural environment of the Sea of Okhotsk. We researchers will pay significant attention to evaluating how such human activities will affect the nature of the Sea of Okhotsk in the future. Moreover, we have also reached a common understanding that in order to ensure the sustainable development of this region we must deepen our academic knowledge on the research, conservation and the rational and sustainable use of the ecosystem of the concerned region.
  4. The region of the Sea of Okhotsk and the natural environment of the Amur River Basin shares borders with the 4 countries of China, Japan, Mongolia and Russia, therefore, the cooperation among these countries is significantly important for the conservation of this region. Up until now, at the governmental level, various bilateral frameworks for environmental cooperation among China, Japan, Mongolia and Russia have been implemented. However, currently there are no multilateral frameworks agreed upon among these countries. Therefore, even at the researchers’ level there are no sufficient sharing of information and not enough opportunity to reach a common recognition of what the problems are. Thus, we researchers that share a common understanding will voluntarily participate in discussions of the problems taking into consideration the range and scope of the bilateral frameworks and the rights and obligations in international law, while paying full respect to the domestic legal obligations of each country. We have also come to a common recognition of the necessity to cooperate in terms of research and actions to discuss the possibilities and effectiveness of common use of information while sharing and exchanging information and opinion on a regular basis concerning what is necessary and what must be done for the conservation of the Sea of Okhotsk and the Amur River Basin.

While taking into consideration the points above, we firmly agree to the following:

  1. To promote the sharing of information to the degree that can be disclosed by researchers of each country;
  2. To make efforts toward a cooperative environmental monitoring;
  3. To facilitate the robust discussions that transcends borders toward an environmental conservation and sustainable use of the resources of the Amur River Basin and the Sea of Okhotsk;
  4. To establish the "Amur-Okhotsk Consortium" as a multilateral researchers' network to promote the above 3 goals.
    (1)Establishment of the "Amur-Okhotsk Consortium"
    We researchers will establish a researchers' network "Amur-Okhotsk Consortium" as a platform to discuss issues grounded on scientific knowledge for the purpose of sharing a common recognition through the exchange of opinion and discussions on the natural environment of the Sea of Okhotsk and the Amur River Basin. This network is a non-governmental network and has not been founded on or by any particular country or organization. This is a personal network comprised of voluntarily participating researchers who share a common awareness and for the possibility of a free discussion by researchers on the future of the ecosystem of the Amur-Okhotsk.
    (2)Provisional Secretaries, the Establishment of the Provisional Secretariat and the Meeting of the Consortium
    The Consortium will hold a meeting once every 2 years and exchange information and opinions. This symposium will mark the 1st meeting. The 2nd meeting will be held in Sapporo in 2011. The provisional secretariat will be established at the Pan-Okhotsk Research Center at the Institute of Low Temperature Science, Hokkaido University. Moreover, the provisional secretaries of the participating countries will be as follows: Zhigang DA (Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences) representing the Chinese researchers, Peter BAKLANOV (Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences) representing the Russian researchers, and Naoto EBUCHI (Institute of Low Temperature Sciences, Hokkaido University) representing the Japanese researchers. The Mongolian secretary will be decided in 2010 upon consultation. The establishment of the formal secretariat, secretaries and the next meeting will be decided on at the 2nd meeting.
    (3)Function of the Consortium and Achievements
    The information that has been accumulated and organized with the cooperation of the members of the Consortium will be provided to the global community through the internet. We will continue to discuss ways to utilize and apply the knowledge and common recognition obtained through the Consortium to the environmental conservation of the Amur-Okhotsk ecosystem.

This document does not bind the 4 countries or the researchers from these countries with special legal obligations. It is a voluntary joint declaration signed by each individual researcher or one’s affiliated research institute. Moreover, this document is not an international agreement nor is it internationally binding. Therefore, the document shall not influence the domestic laws or legal positions and viewpoints of the 4 participating countries, and furthermore, shall not influence the rights and obligations in international law among China, Japan, Mongolia and Russia regarding the environmental investigation or the accumulation and sharing of information of the Sea of Okhotsk and Amur River Basin.

November 8th, 2009
Members of the Consortium
Environmental Conservation of the Sea of Okhotsk:
Cooperation between Japan, China and Russia



1)The other sponsors are Research Institute for Humanity and Nature; New Energy Resources Research Center, Kitami Institute of Technology; Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau; International Science and Technology Center (ISTC); Hokkaido University Initiative for Sustainable Development. It was also co-sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology Japan.

2)Pan-Okhotsk international conferences held so far are as follows: The 1st conference “International Partnership for Conservation of the Sea of Okhotsk and the Rich Fishery Resources” on February 27th, 2006; 2nd conference “Toward Sustainable Development of the Regions Surrounding the Ice Bound Sea” on January 23th, 2007; 3rd conference “Toward Expansion of Economic and Environmental Exchange between Hokkaido and the Russian Far East” on January 30th, 2008; Special Program “Hokkaido & the Russian Far East Environment Forum For Sustainable Development” (Integrated Exhibition of the Environment in commemoration of Toyako Summit 2008) on June 19th, 2008; 4th Pan-Okhotsk Region International Symposium “Research Cooperation between China and Hokkaido toward a Sustainable Environment and Sustainable Aquatic Resources” on March 24th, 2009.


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