Silent Oceans: Maldives in danger

Threatened by climate change, yet searching for oil

By keeping his disputable election pledge to search for crude oil around the Maldives, President Abdulla Yameen invites serious environmental problems that might throw his population into crisis. Offshore oil production is a severe threat to marine life, and to the economic sectors that generate 80% of the Maldives’ income: tourism and fisheries. It is a deep and terrible irony that because fossil fuels are a main driver of anthropogenic climate change, the archipelagic state is sealing its own fate.

The German research vessel “Sonne” carried out seismic surveys in August 2014, 100 nautical miles east of the region around Laamu and the Thaa Atoll. According to Fisheries Minister Mohamed Shainee, this search led to the discovery of hydrocarbon source rock. These results were analysed for the Maldivian Government by Norwegian and German companies specialising in oil exploration in early 2015. The ship’s crew included 25 scientists researching the changes inflicted on the marine environment around the Maldives by global warming. There are plans for further seismic surveys and test drills, and the then newly founded Maldives National Oil Company is authorised to issue seismic exploration licenses. India has already agreed to assist in crude oil production.

10,200 people joined the Silent Oceans campaign to raise their voice against oil exploration and for the protection of the Maldivian underwater world, primarily as an important habitat, but also as a diver’s paradise. However, the Maldivian Government is ignoring the protests and seems determined and willing to accept the consequences of their decision. In April 2015, the Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Maldives to the UN in Geneva refused to receive the petition. OceanCare then handed it over to the Commonwealth Secretariat who passed it on to the Maldivian representatives.