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A scientific panel of the International Union for Conservation of Nature has published a report accusing the operator of the Sakhalin-2 gas development project of failing to collaborate with it in evaluating the project’s potential impact on western gray whales on the Sakhalin shelf.

The IUCN’s Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel filed the accusation in the fifth report on whale conservation on the Sakhalin shelf in eastern Russia.

The panel was established in 2006 to assess the Sakhalin project’s possible impacts on western gray whales and minimize the risks to this whale population from human activities. It is an independent group of scientists charged with providing advice and recommendations to the project operator, Sakhalin Energy.

The panel and Sakhalin Energy have met twice a year since 2006.

“At each meeting, scientific data on the whales and technical information on development activities are discussed at length. However, leading up to the fifth meeting, Sakhalin Energy failed to deliver documents sufficiently in advance to the panel,” said the report, issued in mid-February.

The report said, “The Sakhalin shelf is not only the location of one of the largest oil and gas developments in the world, but also the principal known feeding grounds for the critically endangered western gray whales.”

Trading houses Mitsui & Co. and Mitsubishi Corp. are taking part in the offshore Sakhalin-2 oil and natural gas development project.

Russia’s first liquefied natural gas production for export has recently begun under this project, with about 60 percent of the LNG bound for Japan.

In the report, the panel asked that Sakhalin Energy, as it promised earlier, collaborate by providing “all relevant data and information in a timely manner” so they can be used in whale conservation efforts.

The panel also recommended Sakhalin Energy and all other Sakhalin-based oil and gas companies halt industrial activities that “might be expected, in the absence of independently verified mitigation measures, to disturb gray whales in and near their main feeding areas during the primary summer-autumn feeding season (July through October).”

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