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The global scientific community calls on Greek PM to cancel all gas and oil exploration

 

June 2019

One hundred scientists and scientific bodies and organizations from Greece and all over the world, jointly signed a call to the Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, asking him to cancel the hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation program in the Hellenic Trench. Their core argument is that the aforementioned program will have devastating effects in the country’s marine environment and marine life, even from the first phase of seismic surveys. The resolution text is an initiative of WWF Greece supported by Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute.

Based on WWF Greece’s data, the "blocks" that have been already or going to be concessed to the oil industry for hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation overlap with two regions in Greece identified as globally Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMA): the "Ionian Archipelago" region (overlapping with 34% of its total area, i.e. with 3,253 square kilometres), and the "Hellenic Trench" region (overlapping with 44% of its total area, i.e. with 24,970 square kilometres).

The Hellenic Trench is an area of huge ecological importance, since it is home to several rare and particularly vulnerable species covered by a protection scheme, such as fin whales, sperm whales, Cuvier’s beaked whales, the disappearing Mediterranean common dolphins, other dolphin species, sea turtles and Mediterranean monk seals. As a matter of fact, it has been identified as the only "Area of Special Importance" for sperm whales in the entire Mediterranean Sea by ACCOBAMS (Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contigous Atlantic Area). The largest part of the eastern Mediterranean population of sperm whales is permanently found in the Hellenic Trench, which is their only known breeding and calving area. As reported in the resolution "despite its global importance, cetaceans in the Hellenic Trench are already facing a series of direct and severe threats, such as anthropogenic noise, (studies in the area have demonstrated significant lethal impact of naval exercises to Cuvier beaked whales), ship strikes (threatening the survival of the sperm whale population), fisheries interactions, plastic pollution and climate change, that are already poorly addressed by national authorities and international agreements. Oil and gas exploration and exploitation projects as an additional great threat to marine mammals in the Hellenic Trench, would become the last straw to their survival."

"The Hellenic Trench is a key area for the future of several rare marine species, but also for the future of our country. Nevertheless, the Greek Government allows anyone who so wishes, to proceed with underwater seismic surveys in the absence of an effective control. Any exploration or drilling activity on the open sea and in depths of thousand meters will be the "coup de grâce" for the unique species living in the area, but also for the coastal communities and subsequently the national economy. The resolution published today marks the commencement of a new great consensus among bodies of the Greek and international community who are in favour of protecting our natural heritage and against hydrocarbon exploitation in our country," said Dimitris Ibrahim, Manager of the WWF Greece Campaign against hydrocarbon exploitation.

100 scientists and scientific bodies from around the world support WWF Greece’s initiative and call on the Prime Minister of Greece, Mr. Alexis Tsipras to permanently withdraw from the hydrocarbon exploitation program in our country and move the country towards a 100% renewable energy path. At the same time, they call all individuals to get informed about this issue and join forces with them, claiming living seas, without drillings, on the website https://support.wwf.gr/action-en/

 

Greek Tribune

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