Exxon ignores calls from 50,000 people to stop threatening rare whales | WWF
Exxon ignores calls from 50,000 people to stop threatening rare whales

Posted on 04 August 2009

ExxonMobil has ignored a petition from more than 50,000 people demanding the oil and gas giant and several other companies suspend activities that harm the Western gray whale, one of the world’s most critically endangered whales.
ExxonMobil has ignored a petition from more than 50,000 people demanding the oil and gas giant and several other companies suspend activities that harm the Western gray whale, one of the world’s most critically endangered whales.

The thousands of signatures from around the world were delivered on petitions to the CEO of ExxonMobil in Irving, Texas, and Exxon’s Moscow headquarters, just as the first whales arrived at their summer feeding grounds – the area of Exxon’s Sakhalin I oil and gas project – at northeast Sakhalin Island, in the Russian Far East.

Despite requests from Pacific Environment and WWF to deliver a response within a two week deadline, Exxon remained silent.

The petition urges Exxon, Rosneft, and other oil companies operating in the area to suspend all oil and gas development activities near the critically endangered Western gray whale’s annual feeding habitat off the coast of Sakhalin Island, and calls for the creation of the Sakhalin Marine Federal Wildlife Reserve.

“The Western gray whale population is at great risk of extinction,” said Aleksey Knizhnikov, Oil & Gas Environmental Policy Officer, WWF-Russia. “It is imperative that all oil companies operating in its feeding area acknowledge the effects of their operations on the whales, which have just arrived to feed for the summer, and immediately halt all damaging industrial activities until the whales have left.”

There are only about 130 Western gray whales remaining, including just 25 breeding females. These whales feed only in the summer and autumn, and their primary feeding area lies in and adjacent to Exxon’s Sakhalin-1 project in the Piltun Bay area.

The Western gray whale Advisory Panel (WGWAP), composed of 11 prominent international scientists, met in April with representatives from Shell and Sakhalin Energy, as well as WWF and Pacific Environment to discuss how oil and gas development is affecting the whales’ main annual feeding area off the Sakhalin Island. The WGWAP reiterated their urgent plea for a moratorium on industrial activities carried out by oil and gas companies that are expected to disturb Western gray whales in and near their primary summer/autumn feeding season (July through October).

Scientists on the panel have called for the moratorium following a large decrease in the number of whales in their annual feeding area near the shore during a period of loud industrial activity in the summer of 2008, including a seismic survey. This is significant because if the whales are displaced from this primary annual feeding area, they may have less success surviving and reproducing.

“Noise from oil and gas development is displacing the whales from their main annual feeding area,” said Leigh Henry, Program Officer, WWF. “Any disturbances or additional stresses on the Western Gray Whale could push the already critically endangered population closer toward extinction.”

Sakhalin II project sponsors, including Shell, Gazprom, and other companies heeded scientists’ warnings and postponed the seismic surveying they had planned for 2009. However, Exxon, Rosneft, and others have so far refused to amend their summer 2009 construction and extraction plans in and around Piltun Bay.

“Immediate action is needed,” says Doug Norlen, Policy Director for Pacific Environment. “Over 50,000 people have joined scientists in calling on these companies to stop their potentially destructive activities at Sakhalin Island and every single one of these people will be watching to see if these companies do the right thing for the Western Gray Whale.”


Critically endangered Gray whale Eschrictius robustus.
Critically endangered Gray whale Eschrictius robustus.
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