Best practice biodiversity standards in Sakhalin, Russia

Gray whale

Gray whale



Jonathan Hancox

Impact Assessment - Project finance lead
T: +44 161 827 1890

Adam Fitchet

Managing Consultant
T: +44 1312 972 651

Services we provided

The Sakhalin II project involves three offshore oil and gas platforms, an onshore production facility, an export terminal and approximately 1,600 km of oil and gas pipelines operated by Sakhalin Energy.

Ramboll has worked on the project since 2009 as the project lenders’ independent environmental and social consultant. As part of that role, Ramboll has reviewed and advised on all aspects of biodiversity related survey, assessment, mitigation and monitoring.

Meeting best practice biodiversity standards

Although the project pre-dates the best practice International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards (PS), it voluntary signed up to their implementation. This involves meeting the requirements of IFC PS6: Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Management of Living Natural Resources. The key points for PS6 relate to the scope and detail of survey and assessment completed, no net loss (NNL) of natural habitats and a net gain for critical habitats, eg habitats that support threatened or endemic species.

Ramboll has guided Sakhalin Energy through the process of developing its critical habitat assessment (CHA) and subsequent biodiversity action plan (BAP) in order to ensure that these key documents are compliant with PS6.

Key biodiversity

Sakhalin is an extremely biodiverse island and a key location for species such as Steller’s sea eagle, Sakhalin taimen and  gray whales. Gray whales were once common on both sides of the north Pacific Ocean but are now largely confined to the eastern Pacific. Those that occur in the west, known as Western Gray Whales (WGW), largely comprise an aggregation of approximately 200 mothers and calves that feed close to the north-eastern coast of Sakhalin each summer. The feeding areas lie close to oil and gas related activity by Sakhalin Energy and other operators.

At the initiation of this project, the WGW were identified as a critically endangered population by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel 

In 2004, Sakhalin Energy and the IUCN, in collaboration with Ramboll, established the Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel (WGWAP) with the aim of providing independent scientific study, advice and recommendations associated with the safe completion of oil and gas activities near to the gray whales’ feeding areas.

As a result of the WGWAP many mitigation measures were put in place to protect the whales, including routing of undersea pipelines, control of vessel routing and speeds, timing and approach to seismic surveys. 

No longer 'critically endangered'

Ramboll’s role in the WGWAP has included convening and chairing the initial meeting of the interim panel, acting as an observer at subsequent WGWAP meetings and sitting on a number of topic-specific taskforces run under the umbrella of the panel. The WGW population has now been reclassified from critically endangered, to endangered.

Critical and natural habitats

Areas such as the gray whales’ feeding areas and Steller’s sea eagle nesting areas were identified as critical habitat by Sakhalin Energy and the company is working to deliver net gains for the species in the form of reducing other threats to the gray whales in the area, such as abandoned (ghost) fishing nets which can cause whale entanglement or providing perches and nest locations protected from bears for the eagles.

Full biological restoration of sensitive habitats such as wetlands aims to deliver no net loss of natural habitats.

Ramboll Group A/S

Ramboll Group A/S
Hannemanns Allé 53
DK-2300 Copenhagen S
Tel:+45 5161 1000
Fax:+45 5161 1001

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