gray whale-noaaAn oil platform planned near the habitat of a critically endangered whale population has been postponed for at least five years. Concerns had been raised over the platform’s potential impact on western north Pacific gray whales, of which only an estimated 150 animals remain.

The successful campaign to stop the platform from being built targeted both the Sakhalin Energy consortium and the banks that were the main investors for the project. As a result, Sakhalin has delayed its decision until 2017.

The Sakhalin-II platform was set to be built near the whales’ summer feeding ground in the Russian Far East where two other instillations already exist. WWF feared that increasing underwater noise pollution from construction and operation of the structure could have driven the animals away. Gray whales have bad eyesight and rely on their highly sensitive hearing to find food. Additionally, oil spills in the frigid sub-Arctic waters are difficult to clean up and could be catastrophic for wildlife.

“These extraordinary animals and their newborn calves must consume enough food during the summer to last them on their lengthy migration,” said Aleksey Kniznikov, Oil and Gas Program Coordinator of WWF-Russia. “This place that is so critical to the whales was put at even further risk by oil and gas prospectors, but the whales have won for now.”

Another cause for concern are plans by Exxon Neftegas Limited to construct a temporary pier in the whales’ habitat, which could disrupt their feeding area. WWF is urging the operator to abandon plans for the pier and to use an alternative way to deliver cargo on shore.

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