Russian research vessel Akademik Lavrentyev puts out to Pacific

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VLADIVOSTOK, June 17 (RIA Novosti, Anatoly Ilyukhov) - The research vessel Akademik Lavrentyev will go on a long expedition on Saturday.

Valentina Sheikina, press secretary of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told RIA Novosti that the two-stage expedition would last almost five months.

During the first stage, scientists will explore the northeastern Sakhalin shelf to determine the influence of oil extraction on the population of gray whales. According to the latest data, their population has dwindled to 130.

Anatoly Botsul, head of the department of ocean studies at the Pacific Oceanological Institute of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said ecologists fear that this rare breed might disappear due to oil extraction on the Sakhalin shelf.

The second stage stipulates research within the program of earthquakes and tidal waves off Eastern Kurils. According to seismic indications, that area is similar to the seismically dangerous regions of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

"This year Akademik Lavrentyev is to go on another voyage to the Sea of Japan, to continue the oceanographic studies that were started this spring," Botsul said.

The Lugovoye vessel will take two hydrobiological expeditions to the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan, and the Professor Kireyev vessel will work in the Arctic. In the high latitudes scientists will carry out ecological and oceanographic research projects.

A Russian-Japanese expedition to the site where the waters of the Amur River merge with the waters of the Sea of Japan is also planned. Scientists will spotlight the level of pollution carried by the river's powerful stream to the sea, Anatoly Botsul said.

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