The Shantar Islands (Острова Шантарские; Ostrova Shantarskiye) are a group of fifteen islands that lie in Uda Bay, in the southwestern zone of the Sea of Okhotsk. These islands are located close to the shores of the Siberian mainland. Most islands have rugged cliffs, but they are of moderate height; the highest point in the island group is 720 metres.
The largest island in the Shantar group is Bolshoy Shantar Island (1790 km2). It is about 72 km in length and 49 km in width. It has a large brackish lake (Lake Bol'shoe) in its northern end which is connected to the sea through a narrow passage. Smelts (Hypomesus japonicus) and (H. olidus) are found in this lake.
Other islands include Feklistova Island (372 km2), Malyy Shantar Island, (100 km2), Prokofyeva, Sakharnaya Golova, Belichiy, Kusova, Ptichiy, Utichiy, Yuzhnyy and finally Medvezhiy, which lies very close to the coast.
There is no permanent population on the Shantar Islands, but they are often visited by commercial fishermen who use them as a base. Other economic activities undertaken on these islands are fur hunting and trapping as well as lumbering, which in the past were often done illegally. There are spruce forests on the largest islands. Other trees in the island taiga are the Siberian spruce, the Dahurian larch and the mountain pine.
Although there is little evidence of human impact, the Shantar island ecosystem is under threat. There many endangered birds in these islands, including the Blakiston's Fish Owl, Osprey, Black Stork, Red-necked Grebe, Gyrfalcon, Solitary Snipe, Steller's Sea Eagle and the Siberian Grouse.
The waters around these coastal islands are frozen for about eight months on a yearly average, so that they are merged with the mainland most of the year. Pinnipeds such as Bearded seals, and Cetaceans of critically endangered population such as Bowhead whales, North Pacific right whales, western gray whales and Belugas can be seen in the waters off the islands and come very close to shore. In 2013, a wildlife sanctuary to protect these faunas were created by Russian scientists and nature conservationists with support from WWF and several international organizations.
The islands are currently uninhabited but were known to the mainland Gilyak tribes for their fishing grounds.
The first recorded exploration of the Shantar Islands was in April 1640, when Russian explorer Ivan Moskvitin allegedly sailed to the mouth of the Amur River with a group of Cossacks and spotted the Shantar Islands on the way back. Moskvitin reported his discoveries to Prince Shcherbatov, the Muscovite voivode in Tomsk. Based on Ivan Moskvitin's account, the first Russian map of the Far East was drawn in March 1642.
The Shantar Islands were explored by Russian surveyors between 1711 and 1725.
There is a plan to declare the Shantar Islands a National Park by 2010.
- Menshikov Island (Остров Меньшикова; Ostrov Men'shikova) lies 71 km to the east of Kusov Island's eastern shore. It is 7 km long and has a maximum width of 1.6 km.
- Reyneke Island (Остров Рейнеке; Ostrov Reyneke) Russky Island in the Vladivostok Bay. lies 45 km to the southeast of Menshikov Island. It is 7 km long and has a maximum width of 1.6 km. It is located close to a headland in the coast, separated from it by a 5 km wide sound. This island should not be confused with Reyneke Island close to
- Lake Bol'shoe
- Illegal hunting and fishing in the Shantarskiye Islands
- Taiga in the Shantarskiye Islands
- Russian Conservation; Endangered Ecosystems, The Shantar Islands, page 7
- Russian Conservation; Endangered Ecosystems, The Shantar Islands, page 8
- From the History of the Great Russian Geographical Discoveries in the Arctic and Pacific Oceans in the Seventeenth and First Half of the Eighteenth Centuries. by A. V. Efimov