Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel (WGWAP)

What is the WGWAP?

Since 2004, IUCN has worked with Sakhalin Energy in order to provide advice and recommendations on how the company can minimize risks associated with its operations on the Western Gray Whales and their habitat. As one part of this broad initiative, in 2006 IUCN created a panel of independent scientists – the Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel (WGWAP) – which provides scientific advice and recommendations on the company’s operational plans and mitigation measures.

Overall goal & objectives of the WGWAP

The overall goal of the WGWAP is the conservation and recovery of the Western Gray Whale population.

Its specific objectives include:

  1. To provide independent scientific and technical advice to decision makers in industry, government and civil society with respect to the potential effects of human activities, particularly oil and gas development activities, on the Western Gray Whale population
  2. Co-ordinate research to: achieve synergies between various field programmes; minimise disturbance to Western Gray Whales (e.g. by avoiding overlap and redundancy of field research programmes); identify and mitigate potential risks associated with scientific research activities; and maximise the contributions of research to understanding the status and conservation needs of the Western Gray Whale population.

The WGWAP has been established to provide an independent review process and advice regarding the management of risks to the Western Gray Whales. Its main roles and responsibilities are:

  1. To focus on the conservation of western gray whales and related biodiversity;
  2. To assess the status of the western gray whale population
  3. To provide advice and recommendations regarding research for the conservation of the whales;
  4. To independently review Sakhalin Energy’s plans and assessments, and the effectiveness of the mitigation measures implemented;
  5. To provide independent scientific and technical advice to decision makers, governments and civil society concerning whales and related biodiversity conservation;
  6. To coordinate research efforts on western gray whales and their habitat;
  7. To increase global knowledge and understanding of western gray whale population and their habitat.

The IUCN convened meetings between the WGWAP, Sakhalin Energy and other stakeholders provide an important mechanism of cooperation and collaboration between various stakeholders. Moreover, it provides a useful model of how business, scientists and the conservation community can work collectively to address environmental threats.

Who are the WGWAP?

The Panel includes 12 prominent international scientists from a broad range of scientific disciplines, as well as one Emeritus Member. Panel members come from Canada, Germany, Ireland, the Russian Federation, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States (see Panel Member Bios)

The Panel is under the Co-chairmanship of Dr Randall R. Reeves, Chairman of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Specialist Group on Cetaceans and Dr Greg Donovan, Head of Science at International Whaling Commission (IWC). 

Confidentiality principles

All documents submitted to the WGWAP will normally be made publicly available by the time the WGWAP issues its WGWAP Report, except for information that is designated confidential. Whether information is confidential or not will be determined by IUCN in consultation with the entity or individual providing the information. Confidentiality will be an exception rather than the rule, and therefore as much information as possible will be made available to the public.