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Oil companies ‘endangering whales’

Financial Times: Oil companies ‘endangering whales’

“WWF, the conservation group, called on Shell to suspend its Sakhalin oil project pending a full review”

By Vanessa Houlder in London and Mariko Sanchanta in Tokyo

Jul 21, 2004

The International Whaling Commission yesterday accused oil companies of threatening the survival of an endangered population of whales in the north Pacific.

Noise, vessel traffic and the potential for a catastrophic oil spill posed “an obvious and immediate threat” to the feeding grounds of the 100 remaining western Pacific grey whales, its scientific committee said.

Their foraging grounds by Sakhalin Island off Russia’s Pacific coast have been surrounded by oil projects developed by Exxon, BP and a consortium headed by Shell.

The IWC, which is meeting in the Italian resort of Sorrento, passed a resolution endorsing the scientific committee’s findings that “the onset of oil and gas development programmes is of particularly concern with regard to the survival of this population.” More research and monitoring was needed as the oil and gas activities increased in scale, it said.

WWF, the conservation group, called on Shell to suspend its Sakhalin oil project pending a full review. But Shell said close monitoring had shown the whales were not being affected by its activities.

“We are taking this issue extremely seriously,” it said. It had already implemented protection measures including vessel exclusion zones, noise and speed limits, and delayed construction of a pipeline.

The resolution was welcomed by conservationists, who are fighting to prevent a return to commercial whaling, banned since 1986. The anti-whaling bloc also scored a victory on Monday when it defeated an attempt by Japan to introduce secret voting on resolutions.

Tokyo said it would raise the number of whales hunted each year for research, passing Norway to become the world’s leading whaling nation.

Japan is set to increase the number of whales hunted in the northern Pacific Ocean to 380 from 260 this year, in addition to its hunting permit of 400 in the Antarctic Ocean.

Minoru Morimoto, Japan’s chief delegate, was named vice-chairman of the IWC for the four-day plenary session, the first time in three decades that a Japanese citizen has held the post at the meeting.

© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd

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