Last Friday, January 16th, 2015, Spanish oil company Repsol declared to withdraw from the Canary Islands, Spain. According to an official statement, the detected oil resources are too low in quantity and quality as to merit extraction. This decision was preceded by many months of heated debate between the public and the oil industry’s interests. OceanCare is welcoming the decision and hopes that it will constitute a positive signal for other regions in the Mediterranean and beyond.
The history of this oil exploration in the Atlantic Ocean off the Canary Island highlights the irresponsible and unacceptable handling of potential resource reservoirs in marine ecosystems. All wildlife protection regulations in the region have been ignored, as have been the risks of deep sea drilling and possible negative consequences for the archipelago which mainly relies on tourism.
All law suits by conservation groups and the regional government have been dismissed. The Spanish government even tried to halt a public petition. The last step was to commit the Spanish navy to protect the oil industry’s drillings from environmental activists.
“Repsol’s decision to immediately stop oil drilling is a big moment for nature and species conservation, as well as for the hundreds of thousands of people who fought against these plans. At the same time we have to realise that the oil industry’s doings, backed by political decision makers, dismiss core values of democracy. A highly alarming development has been stopped”, states Sigrid Lüber, president of OceanCare.
OceanCare and other conservation NGOs will not lean back, but aim at the establishment of regulatory frameworks that would prevent suchlike situations in the future. Further, OceanCare hopes that this decision may be an example for similar activities by the oil industry in the Mediterranean, e.g., in the Croatian Adriatic and around the Balearic Islands.