Russia’s Gray Whales Threatened by Oil Development

A massive oil development project threatens gray whales that spend their summers in the Sea of Okhotsk off the remote Russian island of Sakhalin. While their close cousins off the California coast are thriving, the gray whale group in Russian waters has dwindled to around 100, with perhaps as few as 23 breeding females. Unfortunately for them, the largest oil development project in Russia is underway in the bay, with oil platforms springing up, undersea pipelines planned for next spring, and seismic exploration — which messes with whales’ sonar communication — proceeding apace. The International Whaling Commission has said the preservation of the remaining whales is “a matter of absolute urgency” and called for a halt in seismic exploration in sensitive areas and measures to prevent spills. Sakhalin Energy Investment Co., a consortium led by Royal Dutch/Shell Group, has agreed to, ahem, study the matter further.