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Russia puts oil and gas development before whales

Russia refused to comply with repeated calls to postpone a planned seismic survey in the feeding grounds of the critically endangered Western North Pacific Gray Whale at the 62nd annual International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting.

With just 26 known breeding females of the Western Gray Whale population remaining, seismic blasts in the Russian Far East where females and their calves are trying to feed led the IWC’s Scientific Committee to express “serious concerns about the potential impact on Western Gray Whales” and to “strongly recommend” that the Rosneft seismic survey be postponed.  

“The scientific recommendation and statements by several governments here at the IWC should have served as a wake- up call to Russia,” said Wendy Elliott of WWF.  “This whale population is on the brink of extinction, yet oil and gas exploration in its only feeding ground is increasing.”

“This is absolutely scandalous and completely ignores sound scientific advice,” Elliott said. “Russia must reconsider its position on allowing the Rosneft seismic testing to go ahead this year.”

“In addition to scientific advice of IWC, a Russian scientific body has also raised concerns about the Rosneft survey,” said Aleksey Knizhnikov, WWF-Russia’s Oil and Gas Environmental Policy officer.  “Furthermore, this survey will be undertaken inside the proposed whale reserve that the Russian government is currently considering establishing.”

Countries that took the floor to support the Scientific Committee recommendation that the survey be postponed included the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Monaco.

Russia responded by stating that they believed the seismic survey was due to take place as planned.