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July 15, 2011

Underwater robot (ROV) in the SIROCCO A survey area

BY: Silvia García


© OCEANA / Carlos Minguell


Recently, the Spanish Ministry of the Environment and Rural and Marine Environment [Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, Medio Rural y Marino (MARM)] has approved, through a positive environmental impact declaration, the surveying of a large marine area in the search for fossil fuels, that could be found at more than 1600 metres, on the sea floor at a depth of 200 metres. The extraction of fossil fuels and all the necessary previous activities pose a serious threat to life in the sea and the integrity of the coast and go completely against the global efforts to slow down and reduce global warming.

As a result of this permit which was recently granted by the Ministry, we have dedicated the day to inspect the SIROCCO A prospect area, facing Malaga, in the open sea of Alborán (Western Mediterranean), one of the richest and most threatened seas on the planet, because of how special its oceanographic conditions are and the enormous human activity (primarily tourism, maritime traffic and fishing) which it supports. The dives with underwater robot (ROV) carried out with the objective of describing the depths that are going to be destroyed as a result of the future hydrocarbons platform have resulted at the least curious, because these were not depths where we expected to find one of the most important marine habitats in Europe: the oyster reefs. During a journey of at least 1 kilometre we have filmed the top and slopes of a rocky mound located exactly at the point where the exploitation is intended to take place, and where a rich community dominated by the oyster Neopycnodonte cochlear is found, which forms real reefs. As we have previously mentioned, this kind of habitat is found on the list of habitats that should be protected by the EU countries, including them in the Natura 2000 Network, given its importance for the conservation of European marine biodiversity.

Therefore, the positive environmental impact declaration is now for us, at the very least, a pull of the leg, since the finding of this habitat in this area proves the lack of credibility of the permits granted to such extremely dangerous activities.

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