Seismic threat to Critically Endangered whales

24 May 2010 | International news release

A seismic survey planned by the Russian petroleum company Rosneft in summer 2010 poses a major threat to the Critically Endangered Western Gray Whale population. In a letter to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the Director General of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Julia Marton-Lefèvre, urges the Russian government to intervene to postpone the seismic survey and prevent a serious setback for animal conservation.  

The international scientific community and the International Whaling Commission regard noise from seismic surveys as a serious threat to whales. The greatest immediate threat to the Western Gray Whale population is potential disturbance of feeding and nursing by the Rosneft Lebedenskoie 3-D seismic survey in the coastal waters of north-eastern Sakhalin Island, which are the whales’ primary summer and autumn feeding ground. The seismic survey is set to begin in late July 2010, when most whales are arriving to feed in the area, and to last through much of the critical feeding season.

IUCN has been leading international efforts to protect the critically endangered Western Gray Whale. Central to this effort is a panel of independent experts (the Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel, or WGWAP) convened by IUCN with support from Sakhalin Energy Investment Company.

The panel has repeatedly emphasized that the best way to minimize impacts on whales is to conduct seismic surveys early in the open-water season, before whales have arrived in their feeding area,” writes Julia Marton-Lefèvre in the letter. “I urge the Russian government to ensure that all companies operating in areas critical to Western Gray Whales meet their obligations and commitments to developing the oil and gas resources in an environmentally responsible manner.

The Rosneft Lebedenskoie seismic survey should be postponed for at least a year and conducted as early as feasible in the open-water season, Mrs Marton-Lefèvre adds.

Read the press release in Russian: http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/iucn_pr_graywhales_russian.pdf

Download the letter at http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/letter_from_iucn_to_putin_may_2010.pdf  

About the Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel
http://www.iucn.org/wgwap/

For more information, please contact:

Finn Larsen, Marine Programme Officer, IUCN Global Marine Programme, Tel +41 22 999 02 91, Fax +41 22 999 00 25, E-mail: finn.larsen@iucn.org

Pia Drzewinski, Media Relations Officer, Global Communications, Tel. +41 22 999 0313, Fax +41 22 999 0020, E-mail: pia.drzewinski@iucn.org