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Oil giant plans new platform near feeding ground of critically endangered whale
Date:1/17/2011

Sakhalin Energy Investment Company part owned by Shell has announced plans to build a major oil platform near crucial feeding habitat of the Western North Pacific gray whale population.

Only around 130 whales of the critically endangered Western population exist today, and their primary feeding habitat off Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East is already besieged by multiple oil and gas exploration and development projects.

The construction and operation of an additional off-shore platform could have numerous negative impacts on the whales, potentially disrupting feeding behaviours and increasing the chance of fatal ship strikes. Also, a third platform heightens the risk of an environmentally catastrophic oil spill in this sensitive habitat.

"Just around 30 female western gray whales of breeding age remain the population is already on the brink of disappearing forever," said Aleksey Knizhnikov, Oil & Gas Environmental Policy Officer for WWF-Russia. "The loss of even a few breeding females could mean the end for the population."

Gray whales occur on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. However IUCN classes the critically endangered Western population as separate from the Eastern population, as genetic studies indicate that the two populations probably do not mix.

The Western population of North Pacific gray whales depend on the waters off Sakhalin Island for their survival. During feeding season the whales must consume enough to maintain themselves for the rest of the year, when they migrate great distances to their breeding grounds. Their primary feeding area, near the proposed platform, is doubly important as the shallow waters are one of the only places where mother whales can teach their calves to feed on the sea bed.

Sakhalin Energy already has two platforms in the area, and said previously that drilling technology advances eliminated the need for a third. The company acknowledges that hav
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Contact: Natalia Reiter
NReiter@wwfint.org
41-223-649-550
World Wildlife Fund
Source:Eurekalert

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