One hundred scientists, scientific bodies and organizations from different parts of the world have joined forces with WWF Greece to urge Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to cancel planned hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation in the Ionian Sea, the environmental conservation group said in a press release Monday.
The experts supporting the initiative argue that the planned exploration for hydrocarbon reserves off Greece’s western coast will have a devastating effect on the country’s marine environment and marine life, even at the first phase of seismic surveys.
WWF Greece said that, based on its data, the blocks that have already been or will be granted to oil companies for drilling overlap with two regions in Greece identified as globally Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMA): the Ionian Archipelago region (34 percent overlap) and the Hellenic Trench region (44 percent overlap).
“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 is allowing anyone who so wishes, to proceed with underwater seismic surveys in the absence of effective controls,” said Dimitris Ibrahim, manager of the WWF Greece campaign against hydrocarbon exploitation.
“Any exploration or drilling activity on the open sea and in depths of thousands of meters will deliver the final blow to the unique species living in the area, but also for the coastal communities and subsequently the national economy,” he added.
The Hellenic Trench, which extends from the Ionian islands to southern Crete, is an important ecosystem for several rare and particularly vulnerable species – such as fin whales, sperm whales, Cuvier’s beaked whales, the disappearing Mediterranean common dolphins, other dolphin species, sea turtles and Mediterranean monk seals – and is also invaluable to marine biologists studying the behavior of various marine animals.
The resolution text, which has been published online, is an initiative of WWF Greece supported by the Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute.