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SCB comments on proposed oil development in Canary Islands

SCB's Marine Section has written to the Spanish government to voice concerns over potential environmental consequences from the development of the REPSOL oil project near the islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. The proposed development is likely to have long-lasting detrimental consequences for the natural heritage of the archipelago, and particularly the marine mammal populations in the region. Impacts are likely to include accidental oil spills, but will unquestionably incorporate routine chemical discharges, as well as noise pollution during geological prospecting, oil rig construction and drilling operations.

The areas designated for prospecting under REPSOL support 30 species of cetaceans (including several listed on IUCN’s Red List) and represent one of the most unique and important collection of marine mammal habitats in the world. Many, if not all, of these cetacean species (and their habitats) are protected under European law, as well as by CITES and other international agreements and declarations of the United Nations. Certain marine mammals in the Canary Islands have already been seen to be highly sensitive to noise from naval exercises. The entire territory of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, together with La Palma, La Gomera, and El Hierro islands, and almost half of the island of Gran Canaria, have been declared UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, because of the presence of numerous protected terrestrial, coastal and marine habitats. The approved area for the oil exploration also overlaps with one of the ten sites included in the project LIFE+ INDEMARES “Inventory and designation of marine Natura 2000 areas in the Spanish Sea”. The main purpose of this project was to contribute to the protection and sustainable use of the biodiversity in the Spanish seas through the identification of valuable areas for the Natura 2000 network.

Because of these issues, SCB urged the Spanish government to safeguard the natural heritage of the Canary Islands by rejecting the development of the offshore oil industry in these waters in favor of more sustainable policies.

The full letter is available in English and Spanish.