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Ecologists lead the way as early warning sounded over oil exploration 

PAGE 9 ECOLOGISTS LEAD THE WAY

Environmentalists have launched a new campaign to stop oil prospecting near the Canary Islands amid fears of ruined beaches, damaged tourism and decimated wildlife.

The Canary Federation of Ecologists in Action say they will fight the new proposal “tooth and nail” and with the same vigour that they launched a huge battle against Repsol four years ago.

On this occasion, the bid is NOT being made by the Spanish Government against the will of the Canaries but by the Italian company, ENI and is in the nearby waters of Morocco.

The ecologists want the Spanish Government to step in as a matter of urgency and seek special recognition for the stretch of ocean which separates the Canaries from the African coast. They want it designated as an interna-tional environmental reserve to protect them from oil prospecting projects.

The Canary Federation of Ecologists in Action, which includes Ben Magec, El Gincho and Agonane among others, says it intends to call for public protests but fears this will not be enough to stop the Moroccan drilling.

They say oil companies are descending on the African coast “like vultures”.

“The authorisation by the Moroccan government of new oil exploration in waters near the Canary Islands, this time by the Italian ENI, again constitutes a serious risk to the biodiversity of the marine and coastal ecosystems of the African coast and also to the Canary archipelago, given that the ocean does not understand borders,” said a spokesman for Ecologists in Action. “As we warned only a few years ago with the Repsol surveys authorised by the government of the Spanish State, surveys in ultra-deep waters constitute a real threat of contamination of an area of high environmental value and great fragility. They also pose dangers for human health and compromise other economic activities such as tourism and fishing”.

The groups say they are already studying ways of mobilising public support for their campaign and will be using the social networks as well as a major network of international and national contacts.

One of the most pictures-que of the Canary Islands, Fuerteventura has already signalled its opposition to the Moroccan application.

A statement issued by the island’s government says: “The Government group in the Fuerteventura Cabildo (Canary Islands Coalition-PSC-PSOE) is directed to the General State Administration and the European Commi-ssion to adopt measures to prevent new oil prospecting from occurring in waters near the Canary Islands”.

“The waters around Fuerteventura are again at risk and this authorisation is very bad news for the conservation of the sanctuary of the marine reserve of the waters of this area of the archipelago. Therefore, we as the first public institution ask the State to defend the waters of this insular environ-ment making the necessary pressure and activate the necessary procedures to safeguard them from new oil prospecting.”

In 2014, more 220,000 people worldwide signed a petition to fight oil drilling in the Canaries and more than 100 environmental groups joined forces. The Spanish Government nevertheless allowed Repsol to carry out tests which later proved negative.

The Italian company Eni is a multinational oil and gas company and has operations in 73 countries.

Eni said it had signed a Petroleum Agreement with the Moroccan State Company ONHYM to enter into the Tarfaya Offshore Shallow exploration permits I-XII, located in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean offshore the cities of Sidi Ifni, Tan Tan and Tarfaya.

“Following the agreement, which is subject to the authorisation of the Moroccan authorities, Eni will be the Operator of the license with a 75% stake, while ONHYM will retain a 25% stake. The exploration rights cover an area of 23,900 square kilometeres, with a water depth ranging from zero to 1,000 metres, and with liquid hydrocarbons potential in place.”