Continuously threatened by oil and gas developments,entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships and occasional whaling by Japanese fishermen, the Western gray whale is on the verge of extinction.These special creatures were thought to be extinct in the 1970s, but a small number - around 130 - are now known to survive. But their main feeding habitat in summer time, the waters off Sakhalin Island in the Russian Far East, is a region now being developed by the oil and gas industry.
Last year the number of whales counted was lower than normal. According to experts, this may be related to underwater noise produced by oil and gas development in the area. This is a cause for major concern as the population has only 25-35 breeding females remaining.
WWF is urging the companies involved in Sakhalin - Exxon, Shell, Gazprom, BP and Rosneft - to postpone any development until a commission of experts have assessed the impact on Western gray whales and made recommendations about further development in the area. WWF is also demanding that the companies avoid any future activities inside the proposed new Sakhalin Marine Federal Wildlife Reserve.
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