Half of the Spanish Mediterranean could be opened to oil and gas exploitation

Oceana estimates that nearly 12 of the 26 million hectares of Spanish Mediterranean waters are under threat of oil and gas exploration.

Press Release Date: February 11, 2014

Location: Madrid


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Oceana warns that 45% of Spanish Mediterranean waters would be open to exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons if the projects pending administrative authorisation are approved. These almost 12 million hectares exclude the surrounding areas that would be affected by the seismic acquisitions, which according to estimates by Oceana would increase the threatened surface area to 20 or 22 million hectares, or 65% of the Spanish Mediterranean. 

“It is an act of recklessness to have hydrocarbon projects, either in progress or pending approval, covering nearly half of Spanish waters in the Mediterranean,” said Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “We must not wait for a spill to occur to start regretting the damage that has been done. The projects affect fishing grounds and migratory routes of cetaceans, tuna and sharks, so that as soon as the seismic surveys begin, thousands of organisms will be seriously affected.”

The affected regions are Andalusia, with projects over approximately 550,000 hectares in the Alboran Sea, and Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, where seismic acquisition projects and initial drilling would cover an area of around 11 million hectares if the overlapping areas are excluded. The areas of some of the projects still at the approval phase partly overlap, which would mean zones that might suffer the activities of different companies.

Also, the new projects are located near the boundary of the Exclusive Economic Zone and a future spill could reach waters belonging to other countries. The clearest case is that of Cairn’s permits in the Gulf of Lyon (Nordeste project), next to the area of almost one million hectares that France decided to close in 2012 and so end hydrocarbon exploration activity by that country in the Mediterranean. 

“The determination to exploit hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean would leave Spain out of step with European environmental policy. Fortunately, the government still has time to refuse the permits. The scientific information available regarding the species inhabiting the areas that are to be opened up to oil and gas exploration is more than sufficient reason to do so,” asserted Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research for Oceana in Europe.

Photo gallery: Spanish Mediterranean depths threatened by oil and gas projects