Western gray whale
These islands are the only feeding grounds of this whale, and increased noise pollution and disturbance is driving them away.
An iconic species
It is also unique in its migration patterns. No other mammal, on land or sea, covers as much distance along its migratory route as the gray whale. Western gray whales travel more than 12,000 miles in a round trip between their summer feeding grounds near Sakhalin Islands in Russia to their winter feeding grounds in South China Sea.
It is also the only whale that feeds by straining the sediment on the sea floor, taking large amounts of sediment into its mouth and letting it pass through the baleen so only the bottom dwelling worms, crustaceans and molluscs remain.
The Piltun Astokhskoye oil field lies 16 km off the Sakhalin Islands in the Okhotsk Sea, the only feeding grounds of the western gray whale. These shallow waters are the only habitat of this whale which support its unique feeding style, and allows mothers to teach their calves how to feed in this way.
The western gray whale arrives in June and stays until November, spending six months consuming up to 2,400 pounds of food per day to fatten up for the winter when it hardly consumes any food.
Despite all conservation efforts, their population has not increased in many years due to the disturbance caused by the oil field, which in turn affects the species ability to feed, communicate, navigate and reproduce.
What you can do
Pledge your support to the Seize Your Power campaign, and let governments and oil companies know, you do not want energy at the cost of losing this precious and unique species.
Impact of oil drilling
In recent years, scientists have observed the number of whales coming to feed in this area decreasing, while the numbers feeding in deep waters are increasing. This is resulting in under nourished calves as they can no longer learn to feed properly from the mother.
Reports also indicate that whales coming to feed in Sakhalin Islands appear weaker due to disturbed feeding habits, leading to reduced reproduction. Oil extraction also increases risks of collision with vessels and exposure to oil spills.
Until the interference in the feeding grounds of this species is drastically reduced, the western gray whale has a slim chance of survival.
Saving the last 130
- Documenting and protecting critical feeding and breeding areas and migration routes of the whales
- Establishing whale sanctuaries, helping to move shipping lanes and curtail seismic surveys that disrupt feeding grounds
- Increasing awareness of the need for whale conservation at national, regional and international levels
- Involving local communities in economic opportunities from whale conservation initiatives