Alianza Mar Blava x Surfrider Europe: for a ban on oil drilling projects in the Mediterranean Sea


EDIT AS OF JANUARY 27, 2021 : Major victory for Alianza Mar Blava and Surfrider: thanks to our actions, the last four hydrocarbon exploration permits in the Gulf of León have been suspended, guaranteeing the preservation of the cetacean migration corridor in the area.

The Balearic Islands and surrounding Spanish Mediterranean waters are a natural treasure that Surfrier Coastal Defenders work to preserve. As with many of its fights, the organization doesn’t act alone. In this case, it is part of Alianza Mar Blava, which brings together a large number of stakeholders all pursuing the same goal: to protect the Mediterranean Sea from oil drilling.   

The problem of offshore drilling     

Offshore drilling is a major problem for the environment, marine biodiversity and human safety. These risks are due not only by the daily release of toxic substances polluting the water, but also because of improper dismantling of oil and gas platforms. Too often these structures become abandoned marine waste and leave behind thousands of tons of contaminated water. Today, accessible gas and oil reserves are decreasing, pushing companies to drill deeper and deeper, increasing the risks of this activity. As a sad example, the explosion in 2010 of Deepwater Horizon, the deepest offshore well in the world, caused the largest oil spill in history. This accident caused irreversible damage to marine species and corals in the Gulf of Mexico, and cost the lives of 11 people.  

In addition to oil spills caused by operational accidents, the different stages that precede construction also present dangers. For example, the exploration phases also have harmful effects on the environment. The seismic surveys carried out in this context cause a deafening noise to marine mammals known to cause stranding.  

Thus, oil drilling and exploration pose a direct threat to the Mediterranean Sea, its users and the marine life that develops there. They are also a major factor in climate change. Despite this observation, many companies such as ENI, Repsol or Cairn Energy have obtained permits for oil drilling exploration in the Mediterranean area surrounding the Balearic Islands of Spain.  

The strength of Alianza Mar Blava  

Alianza Mar Blava is an intersectoral alliance with more than 120 members from public administrations (Balearic government, island councils of Formentera, Ibiza, Menorca and Mallorca, various municipalities), the private sector (entities from economic sectors such as tourism, fishing or sailing) and civil society (NGOs, trade unions). For several years, it has been fighting for the creation of a "protected area for hydrocarbon prospecting" in Mediterranean waters under Spanish jurisdiction.

Surfrider Europe provides support to the alliance in terms of communication, advice on European law and field mobilization through its Coastal Defenders. But above all, the Spanish delegation of Surfrider Europe is part of Alianza Mar Blava’s board which means that it is an active part of the work group that guides the strategic decisions of the alliance. 

© Vicent Marí

Progress for the Mediterranean     

Alianza Mar Blava has already scored several victories in recent years. Among these, the creation and legal recognition of the Cetacean Migration Corridor as a protected area under the Barcelona Convention with explicit exclusion of oil exploration and exploitation activities, and the refusal of eight requests for authorization to search for hydrocarbons in levantino-balear region, whose area of operation extended around this migration corridor and Balearic islands. But still there are nine applications of exploring sites in the same area being processed and awaiting for permissions.     

Today, Spanish national production of hydrocarbons is extremely low covering 0,01% of demand at a very high environmental cost. There are five ongoing hydrocarbon extraction sites. Three of them are located off-shore and in protected natural areas. 

Thanks to the national climate change draft bill, a proposal of banning new applications for oil drilling permits is currently under consideration of the national Parliament. Being this good news, Surfrider Europe and Alianza Mar Blava still consider it insufficient and are demanding current extraction licenses, which could be renewed until 2042, to be canceled upon expiration.

The victories of Alianza Mar Blava highlight the need to work together to protect the environment around us. It is thanks to the support and the broad expertise of the members of the alliance that several laws could be adopted in favor of the Mediterranean, its users and the marine ecosystem.   

Discover the action carried out in Balearic island by the Coastal Defenders with Alianza Mar Blava. 

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