European banks can help save threatened whales



Posted on 08 February 2012
A western gray whale sculpture has been created in the UK to highlight the plight of the critically endangered population
© WWFEnlarge
WWF this week has asked European banks behind a Russian off-shore oil development to do their part to protect a population of critically-endangered whales. BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse and Standard Chartered are among the companies financing the project, which currently consists of two drilling platforms off Russia’s Sakhalin Island.

The project’s developer, Sakhalin Energy Investment Company, has proposed installing a third platform dangerously close to the key feeding ground of western gray whales. There could be fewer than 130 of the whales remaining, including only 26 breeding females.

WWF is urging the European lenders to oppose Sakhalin Energy’s plans for another platform and to request that the “Sakhalin-II” project be limited to the two existing platforms as previously agreed. A third platform was not part of the project’s environmental impact assessment and could push this vulnerable whale population closer to extinction.

“The western gray whale is on the verge of extinction, and the additional platform, which was never part of the original proposal, sets a dangerous precedent for all future oil and gas projects in the region,” said Colin Butfield, head of campaigns at WWF-UK. “WWF is calling on the banks to take action and oppose the plans - before it's too late for these critically-endangered whales."

Western gray whales feed off Sakhalin Island during the summer and autumn months, before their long winter migration. They must consume enough during that period to sustain themselves for the rest of the year. Gray whales are the only large whales that feed from the sea bottom, churning up the sea bed and filtering the disturbed invertebrates through their baleen plates.

The shallow waters close to the island are the only waters that are suitable for mothers to teach their calves how to feed. If Sakhalin Energy’s expansion plans go forward there will be increased risk of the whales being driven from their critical feeding area by noise pollution, especially that caused by seismic surveys. Development of an additional platform would also increase the likelihood of oil spills, lethal whale and ship collisions, and chemical pollution.

The Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel, a group of independent scientists focused on considering how to reduce the impacts of oil and gas operations on the whales, is meeting with lenders and Sakhalin Energy in Geneva next week. The banks can use this opportunity to voice concerns and oppose the platform.

WWF is inviting the public to help encourage the banks to say no to a third platform, by signing a petition online at www.thelast130.org.

Register your support at www.thelast130.org
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A western gray whale sculpture has been created in the UK to highlight the plight of the critically endangered population
© WWF Enlarge