Bad news: More and more environmental impact studies by companies involved in hydrocarbon prospecting are coming to the conclusion that biodiversity in prospective areas is so scarce that you might as well be on the surface of the moon instead of a the bottom of the ocean. It doesn’t make sense, and when you take a closer look, the truth reveals itself to be far from what is written in those impact assessments.
The “Chinook” project, off of Andalusía’s coast (Málaga and Granda) is one of the most recent cases. The project report presented by the oil company looking to drill in the area, contains several errors and omits extensive environmental data on the area, leaving out anything about local seabed habitats and barely providing information about several species.
This study goes on to claim that loggerhead sea turtles are extinct in Spain, when in fact this species is critically endangered and protected in the European Union. As a matter of fact, the Alboran Sea (where the project is located) adjoins the Balearic Sea, one of the two fundamental areas for this species in the western Mediterranean.
Other inaccuracies in the report relate to fisheries: the importance of this habitat for Norway lobsters, red prawn and hake is not mentioned at all, nor do they mention that species like horse mackerel, anchovy or sardine are fished inside the prospective area.
Furthermore, the area is well-known for its cetacean-abundance, chiefly Risso dolphins and long-finned pilot whales, which feed there. Cetaceans are seriously affected by seismic testing as they experience internal damage, get disoriented and can end up stranded on the beach.
It seems staggering that the potential of an industrial business can so easily be measured whereas the clear importance of the marine wildlife above prospective extraction zones is disregarded. Two years ago, we were able to use pictures show the various inaccuracies of the environmental impact statement of the Siroco prospecting project, which was located close to the Chinook site, between Marbella and Fuengirola. The Siroco environmental study stated then that there were only worms, molluscs and anthropoids in the area, but Oceana had hard evidence from our expeditions that the area was home to several dolphin groups, turtles, oyster reefs, gorgonian gardens, and much more…
These are unfortunately not rare cases, this is in fact quite common. Oceana believes that Governments must require a minimum of credibility and demand sound environmental impact information from the companies that have interests in hydrocarbon exploitation.
In the meantime, we will continue advocating for real data and suitable conservation. We will keep you posted.