Madrid, 1st September 2017: „It is of upmost importance to establish the whale migration corridor between the Balearic Islands and the Spanish mainland as a protected area and to prevent further exploration of fossil fuels in the region.“ This is the core message and objective of a letter signed by 25 scientists and 36 conservation groups, speaking on behalf of millions of supporters on five continents, which was handed over to the Spanish Ministry of Environment today by representatives of Alianza Mar Blava and the international marine conservation organisations OceanCare and NRDC.
The region is habitat as well as migratory corridor for a range of marine mammal species, including the second and third largest species on earth, fin and sperm whales, as well as deep divers such as pilot whales and Cuvier’s beaked whales. All of these species have already been given protection status by various national and international conservation regimes. However, the hydrocarbon industry continues its efforts to explore potential new oil and gas fields in the region. This has prompted a resolute reaction by the scientific and conservation communities locally and internationally.
„The Spanish Government, which has committed itself internationally to declaring this cetacean migration corridor a Specially Protected Area of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI) according to the Barcelona Convention, must urgently adopt a strict preventive protection regime in the area, totally prohibiting hydrocarbon prospection as well as seismic exploration with technologies harmful to marine fauna“, says Carlos Bravo, spokesperson of Alianza Mar Blava.
„Preventing additional input of extreme noise sources, such as airgun explosions, when searching for oil and gas is a necessity if we take the protection of vulnerable species and ecosystems seriously. Declaring the whale migration corridor a protected area would also contribute to the objectives of the Paris Agreement“, says Nicolas Entrup, spokesperson of OceanCare and NRDC, at the Ministry meeting.
In early 2016 a report commissioned by the Secretariat of the Agreement to protect whales and dolphins in the Mediterranean Sea (ACCOBAMS) identified the cetacean migration corridor as a „black spot“, i.e. as an area exposed to significant noise. Seismic exploration of hydrocarbon resources employs so called airguns emitting explosive sound with up to 240 decibels, lasting several weeks or even months. Therefore, these activities would contribute significantly to worsening the situation for marine wildlife, and in particular for sound-sensitive cetacean species.