Lake Baikal, Russia, crippled by putrid algae, poaching and pollution

  • Lake Baikal, one of the natural wonders of exceptional value, is undergoing its gravest crisis in recent history. Experts state that the lake is under severe threat, as the government bans the catching of a signature fish that has lived in the world's deepest lake for centuries.
    Holding one-fifth of the world's unfrozen fresh water, Baikal in Russia's Siberia is  "exceptional value to evolutionary science" meriting its listing as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
    Baikal's high biodiversity includes over 3,600 plant and animal species, most of which are endemic to the lake. Over the past several years, however, the lake, a major international tourist attraction, has been crippled by a series of detrimental phenomena, some of which remain a mystery to scientists. 
    They include the disappearance of the omul fish, a rapid growth of putrid algae and the death of endemic species of sponges across its vast 3.2m-hectare (7.9m-acre) area.
    Starting in October, the government introduced a ban on all commercial fishing of omul, a species of the salmon family only found in Baikal, fearing “irreversible consequences for its population”, the Russian fisheries agency said.