The first Russian national marine wildlife reserve is to be established on the Sakhalin Shelf in 2004. The Sakhalin Shelf area is inhabited by grey whales, which are on the brink of extinction. This announcement was made yesterday at a press conference by Amirkhan Amirkhanov, the head of the Russian Natural Resources Ministry's Department for Highly Protected Natural Areas and Preserving Biodiversity. According to Amirkhanov, since 2000 the region has been subject to industrial extraction of oil by a floating platform. In recent years the negative impact this has had on the environment, including drilling waste being disposed of at sea and an increase in noise and ultrasonic rays, has caused the grey whale population to fall. Amirkhanov said that the whales cannot get enough to eat in such uncomfortable conditions and suffer from exhaustion.
Amirkhanov said that the Natural Resources Ministry is currently carrying out an environmental evaluation of the Sakhalin 1 project. It calls for minimizing the environmental damage from oil extraction and moving the drilling platform out of the limits of the grey whales' summer feeding grounds, as well as placing it as far as possible from the boundaries of the 'water pasture'. It is also planned to move the pipeline leading from the platform to the shore at least 12 nautical miles to the south. According to Amirkhanov, this is being done so that the pipeline will not run through the basin where the grey whales gather to feed.