Pasaia, Spain

14/06/10

A project for the relocation of the port of Pasaia (on the Spanish Basque Coast) to the outside of the bay was under investigation. Its purpose was to provide the province with a modern outer harbour infrastructure. The environmental impact study suggested that this construction would have had serious effects on the environment.  The Jaizkibel Mountain is protected as a Natura 2000 site, but this protection did not extend to the parts submerged by the sea.  And yet, the mountain's cliffs play host to outstanding biodiversity and boast very rare geological formations.


The citizens' platform 'Jaizkibel Bizirik', which unites more than 30 associations including Surfrider Foundation Europe, was formed in 2001. It aimed to stall the port project in order to preserve this remarkable natural heritage. In 2012, during the public consultation and with the support of several thousand people, Jaizkibel Bizirik made its demands with regards to the construction of the super-port clear. Despite having made a very good case backed by technical and scientific documentation, the Pasaia port authorities refused to take it into account. Moreover, the highest public authorities contributed their recommendations, which were fully opposed to the construction of the super-port, based on the impacts it would have on the site. Consequently, the Basque government held a public consultation with the aim to gain support for the inclusion of the seafloor at the foot of Jaizkibel into the Natura 2000 network as a Special Area of Conservation. The majority of the associations, including Jaizkibel Bizirik, declared their support for a better management of the biodiversity in this remarkable ecosystem. Had the super-port taken shape, it would have endangered habitats and rare species on the Basque Coast, which is why achieving protection status was key in the fight against the project. This plea also received support from Oceana (International Organisation for Ocean Conservation).

The project would have had transborder impacts, notably on protected areas in France. According to European regulations, a State which is carrying out a transborder project that is likely to impact on a bordering country is legally obliged to inform the latter. At the beginning of 2012, our association participated in the second transborder public inquiry. Surfrider assisted the Keeper Jose Manuel in setting up the environmental association Ama Jaizkibel Harri, which had set itself the task (among others) to propose alternative port projects that respect the environment. Surfrider funded this association in its realisation of a documentary about the sea floor at Jaizkibel Mountain, with the aim of raising public awareness on the geological resources and the biodiversity at the site, and to disseminate information on the project and its consequences. The Keeper also made several appearances on TV documentaries where he talked about the issue.

In January 2013, Surfrider took part in the public inquiry on the project, and in February, the investigating commissioner made recommendations against the project . Due to the social pressures, the lack of support from all public authorities, and the economic crisis, the project was finally abandoned at the end of June 2013 when the Pasaia port authority was dissolved. Hence, the environmental abomination that would have been the Pasaia super-port is now behind us, thanks to the strong mobilisation and transborder cooperation.


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Coastal Development
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