Cairn to carry out half a million explosions with seismic airguns between the Balearic Islands and Valencia

When combined with Spectrum’s activities in the area, the noise pollution will affect 20 million hectares and harm tens of thousands of cetaceans.

Press Release Date: February 3, 2014

Location: Madrid


Oceana Web | email: | tel.: 202.000.0000

Cairn’s study does not assess the impact on fishing in the Gulf of Valencia, an important area for bluefin tuna, hake, red shrimp, sardines and anchovies. 

Oceana has calculated that Cairn will carry out between 518,400 and 645,000 high-intensity explosions in the seismic surveys it is planning to perform between the Balearic Islands and Valencia. The international marine conservation organisation has presented allegations against the project, with detailed information about the habitats and species that will be affected, for which there is no data in Cairn’s environmental impact assessment.

 “Cairn’s environmental impact assessment is far from being what it says it is. The company indicates that the work will affect ecosystems at depths of between 200 and 1,350 metres, but there is no reference to them in the 800 plus pages. It even claims that the area does not contain habitats that are protected by the Habitats Directive, even though it is a known fact that there are reefs present and the first spawning aggregation of stony sponges in Mediterranean has even been found there”, indicates Ricardo Aguilar, director of research of Oceana in Europe.

To this must be added the presence of around 180 protected species in the Gulf of Valencia, with fifty of those included on the Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List. So, for example, the seismic acquisitions are to be located in the migratory corridor used by cetaceans to go to the Pelagos Sanctuary and they have a significant impact on the fin whale, an endangered species.

Situación de los proyectos de Cairn y Spectrum Zonas de interés pesquero afectadas por Cairn
Situación de los proyectos de Cairn y Spectrum. Zonas de interés pesquero afectadas por Cairn


The studies will be performed over 75 days between 2014 and 2015, and they will emit sounds every 10 seconds, with a range of up to 30 kilometres. These seismic surveys will reach up to 259 dB, a volume of sound that is a million times higher than is needed to cause irreversible damage to hearing. This will affect tens of thousands of cetaceans, it will cause shells, eggs and larvae to break and it will drive away many fish.

So the damage will not only be ecological, but also economic. This area is a place with a concentration of bluefin tuna larvae and juveniles, and it is recognised as a vital habitat for hake, sardines and anchovies, as well as containing two of the Mediterranean’s biggest red shrimp fishing grounds.

“If you combine the Cairn project with the Spectrum project, 20 million hectares of this region of the Mediterranean will become a potentially fatal trap for thousands of marine organisms. And we must not forget that this work will simply be a precursor to other work with a more serious environmental impact, such as drilling and the transportation of crude oil. It is only a question of time before there are accidents and spills”, concludes Aguilar. 

More information: Oceana’s representations (Spanish)