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September 26, 2014

Oil drilling in the Canaries – how to stop “petroleum pirates”?

BY: Agata Mrowiec



Earlier this week, several European political and social actors met up for the second time in the European Parliament to categorically oppose Repsol’s plans for oil prospects in waters off the Canary Islands (Lanzarote and Fuerteventura), a project authorized by the Spanish government.

Oceana doesn’t approve the decision of the Supreme Court that might contribute to the destruction of the 25 marine areas and 82 protected species documented during its expedition in the area. Moreover, the project is also jeopardizing the conservation of protected areas such as Isla Graciosa, known as the “ocean lung”.

The Office for Global Action (OAG), which is a technical department of the Government of Lanzarote, already organized a first meeting in Brussels on July the 9th during which political groups and environmental organizations prepared to fight against the oil drilling initiative. Since then, not much has changed, still allowing the multinational oil company to begin its first exploration works in October 2014.

The Canary Islands is one of the largest marine areas in the whole of Europe with 40% of its territory under protection of the Spanish law, the UN and the EU conventions. Internationally recognized as a “Particularly Sensitive Sea Area” for shipping, it forms a part of Natura 2000 network. A place for 19,550 species and 693 subspecies of fauna together with marine and land flora, the zone covers 150 protected nature areas including endangered groups.

Also, the archipelago of the Canary Islands is widely known as a major tourist destination, whereby tourism represents 54% of the GDP in both Lanzarote and Fuerteventura islands. It is only within 50 km from these islands, where Repsol’s digging operations will soon take place. Local authorities together with Spanish citizens have raised a strong voice of protest against the planned action where a possible accident of oil spill and leak will result in “disastrous impact for the territories with a high ecological value and great potential for eco-tourism.”

European and local representatives have come up with a manifesto calling for immediate action to halt this damaging process. International demonstrations against the exploratory drilling in The Canaries will take place on the 18th of October. On that day, a campaign has been planned  called “one hour for the Canaries”, where people from all over the world are asked to take a picture with the message expressing solidarity against the oil exploration in the islands and diffuse it via social media channels. Oceana fully supports the campaign against offshore drilling and invites you to join the common fight.

Paradoxically enough, despite the popular fierce critics for Repsol’s mining project, a few days ago the multinational company was awarded “Best Energy Company of the Year” and its chairman, Antonio Brufau, “Chief executive of the Year”, by one of the most prestigious magazines in the energy sector.