photo: John Bruckman/Creative Commons
A hopeful update to a story TreeHugger has written about for nearly a year: Critically endangered Western grey whales, threatened by oil exploration near Sakhalin Island, have been granted a reprieve of sorts. Under new regulations enacted by the Russian government exploration in one section of water near the island will be restricted so that it does not coincide with when the whales are nearby. From June to October the whales return to the waters around Sakhalin to feed and raise their calves. It's during this period that oil exploration will be restricted.
In total fewer than 130 Western grey whales remain alive.
As WWF reports, there are currently four offshore oil rigs near Sakhalin Island. A consortium of oil companies (including Shell) has plans for more drilling platforms. To do so it must conduct seismic surveys. Those already conducted have "caused severe pressure" on the whales.
Historically there were three populations of grey whales. The North Atlantic population is now extinct, due to overhunting; the Western North Pacific population is critically endangered; the East North Pacific population has recovered significantly and was removed from the US endangered species list in 1994.