Blog Tags: Canary Islands
Oceana in Europe recently concluded their month-long expedition to the Canary Islands, which documented a vast amount of biodiversity around the island of El Hierro. The expedition aimed to map and gather more information about seamounts north of Lanzarote, the easternmost Canary Island, and around Sahara, the southernmost point of the Spanish Exclusive Economic Zone, to help grow the body of knowledge about these areas and advance their protective measures.
The Dacia and Tritón seamounts, located just north of the Canary Islands, have gone previously undocumented—until now. During Oceana in Europe’s current expedition to the Canary Islands, Oceana took the first pictures of these mountains and revealed extensive forests of black corals on the summit of Dacia, and a great diversity of sponges on the slopes of Tritón, including spectacular glass sponges and carnivorous sponges, gorgonians, corals, deep-sea fish, deep-sea sharks, and more.
Earlier this week, Oceana in Europe launched their second expedition to the Canary Islands. This expedition focuses on the waters around the island of El Hierro, which is expected to become the first marine national park in Spain. This one-month campaign aims to map seamounts north of Lanzarote, the easternmost Canary Island, and around Sahara, the southernmost point of the Spanish Exclusive Economic Zone.
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Last week, the Spanish Supreme Court ruled in favor of oil drilling in the Canary Islands. The ruling approves permits for Repsol, a Spanish multinational oil and gas company, to search for hydrocarbons on the eastern coastlines of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote islands. This project will harm up to 25 marine areas and 82 protected species that were documented by Oceana during its expedition in this zone.
Ocean News: Oil Exploration Approved for the Canary Islands, Emperor Penguins Found to be Adaptable, and More
- Spain gave the green light on Tuesday for oil exploration off the Canary Islands. Oceana is opposed to this decision, as it could affect 25 marine areas and 82 protected species. Oceana
The Canary Islands are in the oil industry’s crosshairs, and that spells danger for the area’s marine habitats and wildlife.
In a new report, Oceana has denounced oil prospecting plans in the Canary Islands, highlighting the dangerous impact of these activities on cold-water coral reefs, deep sponge fields, hydrothermal vents, and nearly 100 protected species.
Spanish oil company Repsol is planning to prospect in the Canary Islands Channel, located off the northwest coast of Africa. The channel contains gas-based habitats that are protected under the Habitats Directive. These habitats support coral and sponge communities that would be destroyed by oil prospecting activity.
A total of 25 protected areas and 82 endangered species would be threatened by Repsol’s prospecting activities. These include sea turtles, short finned pilot whales, angel sharks, bottlenose dolphins, and a variety of fish.
The International Maritime Organization has declared the Canary Islands a Particularly Sensitive Area for its biological wealth and its economic dependence. This status affords the islands’ strict protection in terms of waste and pollution.
The Canary Islands is an archipelago supported by fishing and tourism. Both of these industries rely on the islands’ high biodiversity—more than 600 species and 350 communities and habitats. Oil prospecting would interfere with fishing and tourism, and reduce the biodiversity of the area.
We'll be sure to keep you posted!
Editor's note: This is a guest contribution by Oceana supporter Lauren Linzer, who lives on the Spanish island of Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands, which are just off the west coast of Africa.
Along with many other nations around the world, Spain has been desperately searching for solutions to relieve the increasing financial woes the country is facing.
With a significant portion of its oil supply being imported and oil prices skyrocketing, attention to cutting down on this lofty expense has turned toward a tempting opportunity to drill for oil offshore in their own territory.
The large Spanish petrol firm, REPSOL, has declared an interest in surveying underwater land dangerously close to the Spanish Canary Islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. This would, in theory, cut down significantly on spending for the struggling country, providing a desperately needed financial boost.
But are the grave ecological repercussions worth the investment? There is much debate around the world about this controversial subject; but on the island of Lanzarote, it is clear that this will not be a welcome move.
Last week, protesters from around the island gathered in the capital city of Arrecife to demonstrate their opposition to the exploration for underwater oil. With their faces painted black and picket signs in hand, an estimated 22,000 people (almost one fifth of the island’s population) walked from one side of the city to the other, chanting passionately and marching to the beat of drums that lead the pack. Late into the night, locals of all ages and occupations joined together to express their dire concerns.
Besides the massive eyesore that the site of the drilling will introduce off the east coast, the ripple effects to islanders will have a devastating impact. The most obvious industry that will take a serious hit will be tourism, which the island depends on heavily. Most of the large touristic destinations are on the eastern shore due to the year-round excellent weather and plethora of picturesque beaches. But with the introduction of REPSOL’s towers a mere 23 kilometers (14 miles) from the island’s most populated beaches, the natural purity and ambient tranquility that draws so many European travelers will be a thing of the past.
Last week, in a culmination of several years of work, our European colleagues presented a proposal to protect 15% of the marine area around Spain’s Canary Islands. If the proposal is accepted, it would multiply the current protected area by 100.
Here’s the back story: In 2009 the Oceana Ranger, our research catamaran, sailed to the Canaries, which are off the coast of Morocco. Over the course of two months, the crew documented the seamounts and seabeds of the archipelago, and found a dozen species never before seen in the area, and filmed many rare species, including three-foot-tall glass sponges, Venus fly-trap anemones and lollipop sponges. (For more on the Canaries see this piece from our magazine last winter.)
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