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Critically endangered whales flee Russian oil, gas boom
Date:9/7/2010

Gland, Switzerland - Russian oil and gas company Rosneft is conducting oil and gas exploration work that may have caused the critically endangered western gray whale to flee its main feeding ground.

Tests and offshore installment of equipment by Rosneft for a major seismic survey began in late August, despite repeated calls from 12 governments, NGOs, scientists and the public to postpone the survey because of potential risks to the whales.

Rosneft started preparations for the survey last month near Sakhalin Island even though a small number of western gray whales mothers and calves were feeding in the area. Only an estimated 130 western North Pacific grey whales are left in the world, with around 30 breeding females.

Seismic surveys are done by blasting the water with acoustic noise to detect oil and gas deposits under the ocean floor.

Observers from WWF and other NGOs began monitoring Rosneft's activities and the whales in mid-July. It appears that as of Aug. 20, only weeks after Rosneft's activities started, whales feeding in the area had already been affected.

Before those activities began, observers registered 10 to 15 of the whales feeding in the area. Now whales have only been seen migrating across the area not feeding.

"This is a critical problem as the whales have only a short time in which to consume enough food to last them through the year when they migrate to their breeding and calving grounds," said Wendy Elliott, WWF's whale expert.

The company also has twice conducted seismic surveys at night, which is in violation of international standards, and even Rosnefts' own guidelines.

On August 23, WWF-Russia issued a letter of concern to Russian environmental authorities, requesting an immediate stop to Rosneft's testing.

As part of a WWF initiative, more than 10,000 people have sent Rosneft emails requesting that the surveys be postponed. However, Rosneft
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Contact: Wendy Elliott
welliott@wwfint.org
41-793-477-811
World Wildlife Fund
Source:Eurekalert

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