OceanCare demands the Greek government to protect the Hellenic Trench and its endangered marine wildlife from the menace of hydrocarbon exploration projects

Zurich/Madrid, 4 November 2019: OceanCare welcomes the positive news about the closure of two files to search for hydrocarbons within the Whale Migration Corridor between the Spanish mainland and the Balearic Islands which was declared as Marine Protected Area by the Spanish government in June 2018. The decision is in line with species conservation and climate protection efforts and should inspire other Mediterranean countries to follow this example.

The decision to shelve the administrative files of these two hydrocarbon research permits (called «Northeast 1» and «Northeast 8») is reflected in the Resolution of the Directorate General for Energy Policy and Mines of the Spanish Ministry for Ecological Transition (MITECO), published on past October 30th in the Spanish Official State Gazette.

This information comes right in advance of the start of the 7th Meeting of the Parties of the Agreement to protect whales and dolphins in the Mediterranean Sea (ACCOBAMS) which takes place between the 5th and 8th of November in Istanbul, Turkey.

The decision provides hope for efforts by OceanCare, WWF Greece and others to stop oil exploration and oil exploitation activities in another critical cetacean habitat: the Hellenic Trench off Greece. This underwater canyon stretches from the Ionian Islands to south of Crete. It is a critical habitat for endangered sperm whales in the eastern Mediterranean. Due to its importance to a range of cetacean species, the region has been declared an important marine mammal area (IMMA) by scientists. It should therefore be granted strict protection, excluding hydrocarbon exploration.

„If we want to protect the last remaining 200 sperm whales in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, which live in the waters of the Hellenic Trench, we need the Greek authorities to replicate the decision by Spain,“ said Nicolas Entrup, OceanCare ocean policy expert and Co-Director of International Relations.

In 2011, Capricorn Spain Limited, Spanish subsidiary of the Scottish oil company Cairn Energy, requested 12 hydrocarbons research permits (called “Northeast 1” to “Northeast 12”) in the southern Gulf of Lion. This region is part of an important Cetacean Migration Corridor between the Spanish mainland and the Balearic Islands. At that time, the corridor had no protected status in spite of the fact that a scientific study commissioned by the Spanish Government and published in 2004 proposed it should be declared a Specially Protected Area of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI).

Thanks to the support of dozens of internationally renowned marine scientists, Spanish and international NGOs, and Spanish public institutions, the corridor has finally been declared a Marine Protected Area in June 2018. This protected area status of the Spanish Cetacean Migration Corridor implies the impossibility of authorizing any hydrocarbon prospection and exploitation project nor any seismic exploration campaign throughout this valuable natural space.

Consequently, as a first step, six out of those twelve “Northeast” hydrocarbon exploration projects were definitively shelved in October 2018. Now another two have been shelved, too. „We expect the Spanish Government, which we know is fully aware of the seriousness of the climate crisis, to resolve upon the cancellation of the four remaining project applications,“ said Carlos Bravo, head of Spanish environmental NGO Salvia Team and consultant to OceanCare. „If we want to face the current climate emergency in an effective way, it makes no sense at all to keep processing hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation projects in the Mediterranean Sea,“ Bravo stated.

For further information:

  • Carlos Bravo, Consultant to OceanCare. T. +34 626  998 241, E-mail: bravo@salvia-edm.eu
  • Nicolas Entrup, Co-Director International Relations and Senior Ocean Policy Expert at OceanCare, T. +43 660 211 9963, E-Mail: nentrup@oceancare.org

Background information:

Map of the area: