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Hemscott / AFX News: Scientists fear impact of Sakhalin energy project’s noise on whales

GENEVA (Thomson Financial) – An independent scientific panel has expressed concern over a decision by oil and gas companies developing Russia’s Sakhalin II offshore fields to ignore noise limits aimed at preserving whales, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) said.

The international panel set up by the IUCN said the decision by the Gazprom led consortium including Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell, Japan’s Mitsui and Mitsubishi to reject construction noise criteria on technical grounds could jeopardise western grey whales.

‘We are especially concerned that the company appears to have decided not to include thresholds for prolonged exposure to lower noise levels,’ the Western Grey Whale Advisory Panel said in a statement released by the nature conservation agency.

‘Without more rigorous noise management and mitigation efforts on the part of Sakhalin Energy and other companies operating in the region, their activities may have significant long-term effects on grey whales attempting to feed in this area,’ it added.

The panel made the recommendation to set noise limits in April.

Late last year, authorities threatened the then Shell-led consortium with possible criminal prosecutions and withdrew construction licences over environmental violations in the giant oil and gas project off Sakhalin island in Russia’s Far East.

Energy analysts had widely believed the environmental violations uncovered by Russian officials in Sakhalin were part of an attempt to seize control of the foreign-owned project.

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