June 3rd, 2011 by Zachary Shahan
Well, Russia is one key actor threating Western grey whales with extinction, but it has also taken a step forward in protecting the critically endangered species. “Companies seeking oil extraction rights to a newly available concession off Russia’s Sakhalin Island will not be permitted to conduct activities while Western gray whales are present,” WWF wrote last week.
The Russian government’s new restriction will mean that companies can only operate in the area from late November to late May.
However, as WWF notes, the restrictions only apply to one section of the whale feeding area around Sakhalin and many companies “have active projects in other areas close to the whales’ feeding habitat.”
Currently, there are “four off-shore oil and gas platforms near Sakhalin in Russian Far East, but the development of additional platforms is planned.”
This is a primary feeding area for these critically endangered whales, which are believed to have only 130 individuals remaining.
Are the oil and gas operations really a problem? Yes, they are. “Activities needed for oil exploration, such as seismic testing, can disrupt the whales’ behaviour or even cause them to abandon their feeding area,” WWF writes.
Unfortunately, Sakhalin Energy has some new plans in place that could cause such a problem.
Sakhalin Energy, a consortium that includes oil giant Shell, recently revealed plans to construct a new off-shore platform close to the whales’ feeding habitat, and plans to conduct seismic surveys this summer to determine the exact location of the platform. A coalition of environmental organizations, including WWF, has urged Sakhalin Energy to halt all activities relating to the new platform until an assessment has been made of the cumulative impacts the numerous different oil and gas projects have on the whales.
“WWF welcomes this seasonal restriction and urges authorities to expand the regulation to include all other off-shore projects near Sakhalin,” said Aleksey Knizhnikov, WWF-Russia’s Oil & Gas Environmental Policy Officer. “While the whales await this much needed protection, WWF calls on operators to halt their dangerous off-shore activities during this summer’s feeding season, including Sakhalin Energy’s planned seismic survey.”
Will keep you updated.
Related Stories on Planetsave:
- New Oil Platform Planned for Grey Whale Feeding Ground
- Victory at sea: Japan suspends antarctic whaling
- Killer Whales Are Evolving Into Two Different Species
Image via NOAA/Wikipedia
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