Highly endangered Western Gray Whales given fighting chance for survival – Russian energy consortium halts seismic activity

Today, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) applauds the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company’s decision to protect Western Gray Whales by ceasing its seismic survey near the species’ critical feeding ground. This decision 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 North-East Sakhalin shelf where this critically endangered species might be seriously impacted by such activities.

“This is big win for Western Gray Whales” said Patrick Ramage, IFAW Global Whale Program Director. “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 about 130 individuals—only 25 reproductively active females—the Western Gray Whale is the most critically endangered population and faces serious growing threats from new oil and natural gas extraction projects in its only known feeding ground. There is scientific evidence that the death of one reproductively active female a year for three consecutive years could lead to the extinction of the population within 15 years.

Since 2000, IFAW has conducted its own Western Gray Whales monitoring program and financially supported the scientific research of joint Russia-US team, whose findings were instrumental in securing the official “critically endangered” Red List status by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) for the population. Learn more about IFAW-Russia's office's work to protect the last remaining Western Pacific Grey Whales in the world. 

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