In spring, renowned whale scientists, oil and gas industry representatives, IUCN and other actors gathered in Japan for the 13th meeting of an independent advisory panel. It seeks to demonstrate how critically endangered species of Western Gray whales can co-exist with responsible economic development conducted by Sakhalin Energy off Sakhalin Island in the North Pacific. The full meeting report is now available.
The Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel (WGWAP), convened by IUCN, now enters a new phase where it aims to evolve, take a more ambitious, constructive and strategic approach and engage into a broader set of conservation actions. Within the meeting, Dr Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme, led a workshop to address the development of a roadmap - a new comprehensive project vision for the years to come, as well as the “stock-taking” document of the WGWAP achievements.
Following the meeting, IUCN has been developing the roadmap, conducting a thorough review of the project and started taking stock of the experience to date, analyzing results, distilling lessons learned with a view to improve the work of the WGWAP. In doing so, IUCN has been considering the views expressed at the workshop and will soon start follow-up consultations with Panel members, Sakhalin Energy and stakeholder groups that have been involved in the WGWAP process. The overarching aim is to make WGWAP even more relevant to other oil and gas operators, Western Gray Whale range states and other stakeholders in the North Pacific.
The discussion on the industry-wide practices and WGWAP relations with other entities was also on the meeting agenda. Indeed, IUCN believes that the fragile Western Gray Whale population of some 150 individuals can only be saved by the combined efforts and common strategy of all stakeholders and companies operating in the vicinity of the whale feeding grounds.
In this regard, the meeting participants were pleased to welcome a representative from Exxon Neftegas Limited (ENL) as an observer for the first time. The annual Western Gray Whale Research and Monitoring Programme - conducted jointly by Sakhalin Energy and ENL - is a significant contibution to the increased scientific understanding of the Western Gray whale population.
Other issues discussed at the meeting included an update on the work related to oil spills, environmental monitoring, photo-ID and genetics, population assessment, benthos and distribution research, noise issues, cumulative effects and impacts, as well as other aspects.
The full meeting report is available here.
For more information, please contact IUCN.
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 critically endangered 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. The project demonstrates that critically endangered species can coexist with the economic development and aims at the development of better scientific knowledge of the species and international best practices for the environmental management aspects of oil and gas operations in environmentally sensitive habitats such as Sakhalin.