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Drilling Could Be Nail In The Coffin For World's Most Endangered Whale Population

Date:
May 30, 2007
Source:
World Wildlife Fund
Summary:
Fifteen cetacean species occur in Bristol Bay, a spectacularly rich area of marine life, including the endangered bowhead, blue, fin, sei, humpback and sperm whales. A planned lease sale area in Bristol Bay overlaps with critical habitat designated for the eastern North Pacific right.

North Pacific right whale.
Credit: John Durban, NOAA/National Marine Mammal Laboratory

"Offshore oil and gas development in Bristol Bay would be the wrong step for the right whale," said Margaret Williams, director of WWF's Bering Sea program. "This is a risk we simply can't afford to take. It would jeopardize the nation's most important fishery, the hundreds of communities that rely on fishing and a treasure trove of wildlife."

bowhead, blue, fin, sei, humpback and sperm whales. A planned lease sale area in Bristol Bay overlaps with critical habitat designated for the eastern North Pacific right.

"Offshore oil and gas development in Bristol Bay would be the wrong step for the right whale," said Margaret Williams, director of WWF's Bering Sea program. "This is a risk we simply can't afford to take. It would jeopardize the nation's most important fishery, the hundreds of communities that rely on fishing and a treasure trove of wildlife."

On January 9, 2007, President Bush rescinded a long-standing presidential moratorium that prohibited drilling in Bristol Bay. In July the new Five Year Oil and Gas Leasing Program of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) - a U.S. government agency - goes into effect and includes plans for a lease sale in Bristol Bay and other areas along the U.S. coastline. Bills to block leasing in Bristol Bay are pending in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Oil and gas exploration in the Bristol Bay area would expose whales to noise pollution, oil spills, chemical pollution, vessel collisions and entanglement with or ingestion of marine debris. There are no reliable estimates of current abundance or trends for right whales in the North Pacific. According to U.S. government sources, there may be fewer than 300 of these animals left compared to a pre-whaling population of more than 11,000.

Bristol Bay is also the epicenter of the Bering Sea fishery whose commercial salmon, halibut, herring and crab fisheries generate more than $2 billion annually. Sport hunters and fishermen flock to the bay each year, pumping millions of dollars more into the economy. And the region's spectacular wildlife supports scores of Alaskan natives who rely on a healthy ecosystem for food.

"The MMS has calculated average estimates from drilling to generate a total of $7.7 billion, but that's just a fraction of the annual flow of $2 billion from the Bering Sea's renewable and sustainable fishery," said Karen Gillis, executive director of the Bering Sea Fishermen's Association.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by World Wildlife Fund. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

World Wildlife Fund. "Drilling Could Be Nail In The Coffin For World's Most Endangered Whale Population." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 May 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070529184525.htm>.
World Wildlife Fund. (2007, May 30). Drilling Could Be Nail In The Coffin For World's Most Endangered Whale Population. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070529184525.htm
World Wildlife Fund. "Drilling Could Be Nail In The Coffin For World's Most Endangered Whale Population." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070529184525.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

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