Oceana once again warns UNESCO of illegal fishing and pollution in spanish world heritage site

UNESCO, Oceana and other environmental organisations meet to delve into threats facing Doñana national park.

Press Release Date: January 24, 2011

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

Oceana will today meet with representatives of the World Heritage Centre of UNESCO and of the Ramsar Convention Secretariat to present an analysis of the two biggest threats endangering the integrity of the marine environment of Doñana National Park: the planned expansion of the petroleum industry and illegal fishing. This meeting, also attended by other conservationist organisations, was called following numerous complaints about the danger facing the Spanish national park.

Doñana, World Heritage Site (Unesco, 1994) and Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar, 1982), is located at the heart of the Gulf of Cadiz, a location with a significant presence of industries such as petroleum, fishing, tourism and maritime traffic.

The risk of pollution and oil slicks – oil spills have been detected on the beaches of Doñana on several occasions – would be even greater if the construction of a new pipeline and a single buoy mooring for unloading hydrocarbons were permitted for the future Balboa Refinery, a project currently pending approval from the Ministry of the Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs. In 2010, following a warning from Oceana of the threats to Doñana, Unesco asked the Spanish government for information on the environmental impact of the proposed plans.

“These projects aimed at expanding an industry as dangerous as the petroleum industry, should never even have been considered, given Doñana’s level of protection. This is a terrestrial and marine nature reserve with numerous protection orders and international recognition, and the risk to its integrity means that these plans to expand are unacceptable”, declares Ricardo Aguilar, Director of Research at Oceana Europe.

Moreover, the high biological productivity of these waters generates significant fishing activity which is not always carried out responsibly and in a way that maintains the level of fish stocks. During its expeditions, Oceana has been able to document illegal fishing operations invading protected areas, even in the very waters of the National Park. Techniques such as bottom trawling cause serious damage to important habitats including slabs of sandstone rock covered in coral and gorgonians, which are abundant on these sea beds.

After several years studying the depths of the Gulf of Cadiz and detailing a great many species and habitats, many of which are protected by Spanish law and various international conventions, Oceana is demanding that the oil pipeline projects in the area be halted and that there be an end to the illegal fishing. Furthermore, Oceana requests that a new, larger marine protected area be declared in the waters of Doñana, from Mazagón (Huelva) to Rota (Cadiz).

Oceana has photographs and video recordings

Fact sheet: Anthropogenic activities around Doñana. Threats and protection proposal

Doñana and the Gulf of Cadiz. Marine protected area expansion proposal