In response to concerns raised by the Russian and international conservation community about the critically endangered western gray whale, and at the request of Sakhalin Energy, in 2004 IUCN convened an Independent Scientific Review Panel to evaluate the company’s planned approach for minimizing the impacts of construction activities in the vicinity of Sakhalin Island, Russia, during the 2005 open-water season. Since then, IUCN has been working with Sakhalin Energy – an oil and gas company with Gazprom, Shell, Mitsui and Mitsubishi as shareholders – and other actors, including IUCN Members active in the region, to ensure the long-term conservation of these cetaceans, listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM. As a result, the scientists now have a much better understanding of the population and have recently reported a slow but steady increase in numbers.
In 2006, IUCN convened the Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel (WGWAP) to advise the company on a more regular basis and to help manage its monitoring and mitigation efforts. Over the years – under the guidance of the IUCN’s Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel (WGWAP) – the company has put in place several measures to reduce the impact of their operations on the whales. In 2015, Sakhalin Energy was the only energy company operating at Sakhalin and conducting seismic surveys near the whale’s feeding areas that accepted the inclusion of an IUCN’s Independent Observer as part of its seismic survey monitoring and mitigation programme, and it sought advice from the Advisory Panel on its development. The findings will inform future monitoring and mitigation plans at Sakhalin and elsewhere.
In 2016, the Panel's work includes advice on underwater noise and seismic survey issues, implementation of the IFC Performance Standard 6 by the company, and a review of the Joint Sakhalin Energy/Exxon Neftegas Limited (ENL) Monitoring and Research Programme on western gray whales, amongst other areas.
For more information, visit the WGWAP pages.