Hope for critically endangered whales as Russian energy consortium halts seismic activity

Tuesday, 28 April, 2009
(Sakhalin, Russia - 24 April 2009) – The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has applauded an energy consortium’s decision to cease seismic survey work near the only known feeding ground of the Western Gray Whale.

The decision by the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company follows the recommendation of World Conservation Union (IUCN) scientists to discontinue seismic activity associated with controversial oil and gas extraction projects off the North-Eastern coast of Russia’s Sakhalin Island.

The Western Gray Whales Advisory Panel of IUCN recommended a moratorium on seismic activity in the area for at least this year. The same recommendation is subject for consideration by other oil and gas extracting companies operating at the North-East Sakhalin shelf where this critically endangered species might be seriously impacted by such activities.

“This is a big win for Western Gray Whales,” said Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW. “World class science and responsible corporate action can give our planet’s most endangered whales a fighting chance. We are hopeful that Exxon, BP and other companies involved will also act responsibly.”

Thought to be driven to extinction by commercial whaling, the Western Gray Whales were rediscovered by Russian scientists during an aerial fish survey in the area off the coast of Sakhalin Island, Russia. With a current population of around 130 individuals - only 25 reproductively active females - the Western Gray Whale is critically endangered and faces serious growing threats from new oil and natural gas extraction projects in its only known feeding ground.

Since 2000, IFAW has conducted its own Western Gray Whales monitoring programme and has given financial support to the scientific research of a joint Russia-US team, whose findings were instrumental in securing official ‘critically endangered’ Red List status for the species with the World Conservation Union (IUCN). IFAW is currently the only NGO that monitors the status of the population. 

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Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Whales