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Shell oil platform in Russia’s Far East driving whales towards extinction


14 Dec 2005, Gland, Switzerland – An oil platform, constructed by Royal Dutch Shell in the Russian Far East, is disrupting the feeding patterns of the last remaining 100 Western Pacific grey whales, according to a survey by WWF.

Results from the survey carried out from July to September — the whale’s peak feeding period — showed fewer whales in the area closest to the platform, which covers a fifth of their only known feeding grounds. Earlier this year, Shell ignored the findings of an independent panel of distinguished scientists that recommended against constructing a platform near the whale’s feeding area.

“I am extremely concerned that the installation of the platform may have caused significant dislocation of the whales,” said Richard Steiner, a professor at the University of Alaska. "This does not bode well for the future of the whales and calls into question Shell’s professed commitment to the environment.”

Professor Steiner resigned from the independent panel following Shell’s refusal in July to delay the installation of the platform. At that time Shell had agreed not to “plan, implement or continue any activity found to have a biological impact on the whale population”.

The platform is part of a multi-billion gas and oil development project known as Sakhalin II, which consists of three offshore platforms, offshore and onshore pipelines, an onshore processing facility, a liquefied natural gas facility, and an oil and gas terminal. However, the Shell-led consortium — including other multi-nationals like Mitsubishi and Mistui — relies on financing from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

In May 2005, the head of the EBRD determined that the project was “unfit for purpose” due to Shell’s disregard for environmental considerations. The bank could make a decision as early as Wednesday on whether it will fund the Sakhalin II project.

“Shell has failed to meet even its own environmental standards on its projects,” said Paul Steele, WWF International’s Chief Executive Officer. “We urge the bank to decline financing until Shell properly faces up to its responsibilities.”

WWF calls on Shell to suspend all offshore activities pending results of next year’s whale monitoring programme and to suspend all construction activities for river crossings pending an independent assessment. Shell should be required to restore degraded rivers and tributaries and compensate local fishing communities for loss of livelihood as a consequence of current practices. Shell should also present an oil spill prevention programme that meets internationally acceptable standards, particularly in the harsh, icy conditions off Sakhalin’s coastline.


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