Canary Islands, Spain


On the 16th of March 2012, the Spanish government gave the green light to a deep water oil exploration project off the coast of the Canary Islands despite the strong opposition made up of environmental associations, fishermen, tourism professionals, and local institutions.  Oil exploitation in this area would have a direct impact on the marine mammals which pass through these waters during their annual migration. The government of the Canary Islands supports a ‘point blank dismissal' of the plans. They are worried about the inevitable consequences this exploration would have for the islands' tourism, and they are planning to take legal action to stop the exploration.

The Keeper, Wim, initiated a petition, which is currently circulating the Surfrider network and which can be accessed online. It has already collected more than 18,000 signatures. In March 2012, following a call for mobilisation launched by a group of associations including SFE, 22,000 and 12,000 people gathered in Lanzarote and Fuerteventura respectively to demonstrate their opposition to the project.

The petition saw a highlight moment thanks to the distribution of 5,000 post cards to the general public aimed at conveying information and raising awareness. These post cards were designed pro bono by an arts student, and they made a significant impact in the written press and on TV. They were consequently sent to the Spanish government to make them aware of the strong opposition to any oil exploration plans in the Canary Islands. Additionally, King Mohammed VI of Morocco expressed his opposition to the project in June 2012, as the zones demarcated for the oil exploration form part of the Moroccan continental shelf. In response, the government of the Canary Islands called upon the European Union to clarify the legality of the granted exploration permits.

In November 2012, the President of the Municipal Council of Fuerteventura, Mario Cabrera, asked the Spanish Prime Minister and the Minister for Industry to consider the environmental disasters caused by the Prestige and the Deepwater Horizon before taking a similar risk just off the coasts of the Canary Islands. Parallel to the legal and governmental actions, the Keeper keeps disseminating information and raising public awareness by organising beach clean-ups, by giving interviews, and by arranging screenings of a film on the Prestige disaster.

In February 2013, a new petition with an innovative concept was launched: Every new signature automatically sends out an email to the relevant minister. In March, a video on the project Yes to Renewables, No to Oil Drilling in Canaries was produced.  Very recently, the Spanish government announced that in accordance with the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), an in-depth impact study would be commissioned.

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