Prompted by Oceana’s alert, UNESCO requests a report from Spain on oil industry projects off Doñana national park

Oceana has proposed to expand Doñana’s protected marine area, which is threatened by chronic hydrocarbon pollution and accidental spills

Press Release Date: September 16, 2010

Location: Madrid


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Oceana applauds UNESCO and the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) public decision to request a new, more detailed report from the Spanish government on the status of the oil industry’s planned projects, around Doñana National Park, a World Heritage Site. UNESCO and the IUCN, which made this decision following the committee held in Brasilia in August, consider the development of the oil industry in the waters off this area to be a threat. This decision will force Spain to outline the effects of these activities on the local environment, and creates an opportunity to safeguard the integrity of the area.

In August 2009, Oceana alerted UNESCO and the IUCN of the increased risk of oil slicks off Doñana caused by the local oil industry’s expansion projects: the installation of a single buoy and gas pipeline for unloading oil as part of the planned Balboa refinery in Extremadura, and the expansion of the current refinery, La Rábida, which belongs to CEPSA.

These projects, which endanger the area’s rich biodiversity, would lead to an increase in maritime traffic of fuel-carrying ships, chronic pollution and the risk of accidental hydrocarbon spills. In fact, they have also been denounced by numerous environmental organizations and citizens’ platforms. Doñana’s marine environment is currently gravely in peril and Oceana is requesting increased protection for it, by expanding the scarce marine protected area that currently exists.

“We hope that in the case of Doñana, the scales will tip towards preserving biodiversity and supporting renewable energies, thus preventing oil slicks from advancing into one of the richest and most productive areas in our waters. This is why it is necessary to make progress in developing marine wind energy, states Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe.

Oceana has spent years studying this area’s biodiversity with divers and the use of a submarine robot (ROV) and spreading the word on the need to better protect it. The waters around Doñana shelter marine species of high ecological value and many of them are protected. Numerous species of commercial interest as well as sea horses, cetaceans and meadow-forming plants -such as the Zostera marina– are present in that area. On the slabs of rock, you can find large colonies of corals, among many other species of invertebrates and fish.

Recently, UNESCO intervened in a similar situation when Spain endangered the integrity of another of its World Heritage Sites: the city of Ibiza and its marine environment. Following the expansion of the port there, UNESCO laid down a series of recommendations. However its decision was not firm enough to halt this project, nor the dire consequences it will have on the local marine ecosystem. Oceana is confident that this situation will not repeat itself in the case of Doñana National Park.

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