Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel happens in Korea, and that's about all we can say right now
At the beginning of November, International Fund for Animal Welfare Russia took part in the 12th Meeting of Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel in Busan, South Korea.
This panel was established in 2006 under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s umbrella.
The main goal of WGWAP is to recommend ways Sakhalin Energy, an oil company, can minimize the impact of its operations on western gray whales and their habitat.
The panel is a unique example of collaboration among the oil industry, scientists and NGOs. The most important result of this collaboration is that the western grey whale population is stable, although the Sakhalin region is under strong pressure from oil extraction activities.
For each meeting, Sakhalin Energy must to provide reports and presentations of the scientific investigations of WGW population that were done during field season.
The investigation includes photo identification of whales, acoustic observation, and condition of prey base (benthos) in Piltun Laguna. Also, the company provides information on industrial plans and scientific research planned for the next season.
The advisory panel examines the reports and makes recommendations.
Most of the items discussed by the panel are confidential.
Additionally, this year, the IUCN established new rules that “reporting, including through social media, websites, and blogging, or otherwise commenting about substantive issues and views expressed at a meeting, except for the topics discussed, is not allowed during the course or the meeting and until the public release of the final report.”
As I’m not allowed to say anything about gray whales, I will share some of my impressions of Busan. I had an opportunity to take a walk to a small market near our hotel. What struck me was the quantity of marine food. There were octopi, squids, shrimp, many types of mollusks, holothurians and even echiuridae.
Echiurida is type of worm that’s rather ugly looking, and I can’t even imagine what there’s to eat in this worm. When I tried to express my impression to other people about how much Korean people eat marine animals, most of answers were, “It’s so healthy.” I do agree, it should be healthy, but during my walk I was thinking how many invertebrate animals are taken from the sea…and what for?
I also managed to visit Nakdonggang Bird Sanctuary, established for the protection of migrating birds. It’s located at the edge of the city. Unfortunately, November is not the best season for bird watching but I was lucky to see several species.
Also, I was impressed by the ecocenter. It’s a new beautiful building, entry is free, and inside it is very well equipped with educational programs and interactive displays. One wall is glass and it overlooks a river, so that visitors can observe birds using binoculars from the center.