Exxon Neftegas Limited Statement on Western Gray Whale

Western Gray Whale

From: Exxon Neftegas Limited

During the summer and fall months, the northeast coast of Sakhalin Island is visited by a small Western Gray Whale population. Before the 1970s, little was known about these animals — which many believed had been hunted to extinction. But thanks to a research program that Exxon Neftegas Limited has been conducting in partnership with Sakhalin Energy since 1997, prominent whale experts from Russia and abroad have acquired unique data on this endangered marine mammal species. Based on data compiled through these multi-year research efforts, measures taken to protect the mammals appear to be effective.

Photo-identification method
Photo-identification is an important method used to study the whales. ENL co-sponsored the establishment of a field team and a laboratory at the Institute of Marine Biology of the Far East branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Vladivostok. Scientists there study the whales by collecting, storing and analyzing thousands of digital photos each year. They are able to distinguish whales from one another based on their color, tail shape and scars.

Other methods
The Institute of Marine Biology in Vladivostok also leads a benthic study program that provides information on the whales’ food resources. This is important in understanding what leads the whales to naturally change the areas they occupy from time to time. Other areas of research include studies on acoustics that help scientists evaluate the potential for sound from construction activities to have an effect on the behavior of the whales and for the Sakhalin-1 Project to mitigate those effects accordingly.

Future Western Gray Whale research planning will be developed to ensure scientifically credible data on the whale population are available as the project moves into future developments.

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