ISRP of Phase 2 of the Sakhalin II Project

IUCN as a knowledge-based convening organization, convened an Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP) of Western Gray Whales and other related key elements of biodiversity in the context of Phase 2 of the Sakhalin - II Project.  The Panel held four meetings and then released its final report on 16 February 2005.

ISRP Phase 2 - Downloads
Whale photo


IUCN Responds To Panel's Sakhlin Study
March 9, 2005
Sakhalin Island, off the east coast of Russia, contains substantial deposits of oil and gas. The Sakhalin II Phase 2 Project aims to expand production from these deposits, but concerns have been expressed about the risks of the project to the Western Gray Whale. A report assessing these risks has been produced by an Independent Scientific Review Panel convened by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) at the request of the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company Ltd. (SEIC). The Panel was asked to evaluate the science around the conservation of the Western Gray Whale and related biodiversity. It was not asked to develop prescriptive recommendations, but rather to provide an evidence-based analysis and conclusions about the relevant issues. The IUCN Secretariat itself did not express any opinion on the project or the work of the Panel during the review. Now that the Study is available, IUCN has prepared the following response.
IUCN Position Paper 

Tail fin of Western Gray Whale

At the request of Sakhalin Energy Investment Limited, IUCN has agreed that the delivery date for the final report of the Independent Scientific Review Panel (ISRP) on the Western Gray Whale (WGW) will be extended to 16th February 2005. This will allow the ISRP to take into consideration a Comparative Environmental Assessment (CEA) being prepared by SEIC as part of the process of evaluating alternative pipeline routes and which is expected to be completed by the end of November. The CEA report is to address the potential environmental impacts of pipeline routing options, including oil spill risk modelling and acoustic modelling. The ISRP’s final report will now appear on IUCN's website on 16th February 2005

Background Information

Sakhalin Energy Investment Company Limited (SEIC) is a consortium of companies developing oil and gas reserves in the Sea of Okhotsk off the northeast coast of Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East. The shareholders in SEIC are: 

  • Shell Sakhalin Holdings B.V. (Shell) 55% (operator)
  • Mitsui Sakhalin Holdings B.V. (Mitsui) 25%
  • Diamond Gas Sakhalin, a Mitsubishi company 20%

SEIC is implementing the Sakhalin II Production-Sharing Agreement (PSA), an agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation, the Sakhalin Oblast, and SEIC. Sakhalin II is a phased development project. Phase 1, an oil-only development, went into production in 1999 and produces approximately six months of the year during the ice-free period. Phase 2 is an integrated oil and gas development that will allow year-round oil and gas production, and includes two additional offshore platforms, offshore and onshore pipelines, and onshore processing and exporting facilities. Production from Phase 2 of the Sakhalin II Project is planned to commence in 2007.

The project potentially impacts on the environment, particularly on the Western Gray Whale (WGW) population which was listed by the 2003 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered. More information on the Western Gray Whales is available here (pdf). The WGWs are a major concern with marine scientists, environmental organizations, potential lenders and SEIC. It is in response to this widespread concern that IUCN is convening the ISRP.

Objective of the Review

The objective was to establish an independent expert view of the key issues relating to the conservation of WGW population and associated biodiversity in the context of Phase 2 of the Sakhalin – II Project. Further information about the specific objectives, the scope of work, the structure of the Panel, the information and feedback process, participants, and resources are available in the Final ISRP Terms of Reference (pdf). The ISRP Terms of Reference were established by IUCN through a process of engagement with key stakeholders.

Panel Meeting Timeline

The Final report of the panel was completed by 16 February 2004. Important milestones along the path towards this date included: 

  • 8-10 September, Toronto, Canada - first meeting of the panel
  • 4-8 October, Sakhalin Island, Russia - second meeting of the panel
  • 6-8 November, Sausalito CA, USA - third meeting of the panel
  • 24-31 January, Seattle WA, USA - fourth meeting of the panel

Information and updates reporting progress along this timeline were available throughout the Review.

Panel Composition

Panel was comprised of 14 members selected from among more than 45 internationally renowned experts. It included experts on Gray Whale ecology and behavior, oil spill risk analysis, noise and bio-acoustics, and other pertinent issues. Dr Randall Reeves, Chair of the Cetacean Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, was the Chair of the Panel.

Randall R. Reeves (Chairman)
Robert L. Brownell, Jr.
Alexander Burdin
Justin G. Cooke
James D. Darling
Gregory P. Donovan
Frances M. D. Gulland
Sue E. Moore
Douglas P. Nowacek
Timothy J. Ragen
Richard G. Steiner
Glenn R. VanBlaricom
Alexander Vedenev
Alexey V. Yablokov

Co-opted Contributors:
John Harwood
David W. Weller