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Clean Ocean Project was established 10 years ago when a group of disgruntled surfers, sick of seeing so much rubbish on the beaches in the north of Fuerteventura decided to do something about it. They started to organize beach cleans and events.

10 years on, Clean Ocean Project continues with it´s beach cleans but it is also now respected pressure group, information point, resource agent for other beach cleans and even a successful fashion line.

Surf Canaries, who work in conjunction with the Clean Ocean Project were lucky to catch up with founder Wim Geirnaert for a few words on the proposed oil platforms in the Canary Islands and he had some very interesting insights to share with us…


Wim, following your studies, what would you say were the risks to the environment in the “best case scenario” (with everything running smoothly and without major accident)?

“Even before oil is excavated, there is a process carried out, similar to an x-ray that produces sounds that will kill sea life for miles around, even dolphin. This will effect sea-life before any oil is extracted”.

“Drilling at great depths involves chemicals being used in the drilling process and it is proved that just the excavation of the oil, even without accidents will result in oil and chemicals being released into the water and will kill wildlife and potentially arrive on our beaches.”

And it appears that It´s not just the oil production that will pollute, with the oil production there will be spin off environmental problems. “ There will be a lot more traffic from ships that transport the oil. Our north east shores have thick tar on their rocks (with the rocks being black, it is not too obvious but it is there and it is a great hazard to wildlife) and this is due to shipping and illegal cleaning of the ships bilges close offshore. A beach clean in Fuerteventura at the Fuerte Wave Classic (a windsurf competition) just 3 weeks ago unearthed a huge expanse of oil, supposedly left by cargo ships. It is well documented and is happening already, so I don't think it will get better when the oil excavation starts and they are moving 40,000 barrels a day!”

With Major Accident:

Scary similarities to the Gulf of Mexico?

Wim pointed out that we must watch recent history and take heed. “ Geographically, the area for the proposed oil sites are very similar to those in the Gulf of Mexico, where we recently saw the devastation of the oil spill. Excavation at these depths is extremely risky and oil companies have little experience with them”

If we have a disaster such as this one, we could see the virtual elimination of sea life in our waters. The tourism and fishing industry would be completely decimated and the Canary Islands would have lost the majority of its industry. Are we prepared to risk this potentially happening for the potential benefits for Repsol and Spain?


Apart from Repsol benefiting, Clean Ocean Project don't see any benefits for the oil excavation. There is no evidence to suggest that it will be a revenue source for Spain, let alone the Canaries.

Are we being conned? Wim explained to us: “ The government and press are talking about platforms that are 60KM from the Canary Islands coastline where, in actual fact, Repsol have obtained permission to excavate starting from just 10KM offshore.”

Drilling gets more risky as it gets deeper. As oil gets scarcer, it becomes more and more economically viable to drill it, even at great depths. Is it tangible that this will lead to more disasters in the future?

Wim goes on to explain that the myth that “If we don't get there first, Morocco will” is unsubstantiated. The reality is that they are talking about completely different areas. The zone off Morocco is much closer inshore and therefore with less risk. This is just a smoke screen to win public support.

Why now? Wim tells us that there is no need for Repsol to excavate this oil yet, they are doing so to avoid stronger regulation in the future; “In 2013 there will be new stronger regulations in place to protect the environment. The average cost per day to run a platform is 500,000 Euros per day, but after the 2013 regulations, these costs will be closer to 1m Euros. It is in Repsol´s interest to enter before these regulations are in place”.

“There is nothing new with these proposals. Repsol have tried (and failed) to obtain the rights to excavate this oil already. Lack of a good environmental plan led to its down fall when it was last presented 8 years ago.”

So how can we go forwards from here? So if oil extraction in the Canary islands is not beneficial to us, what is it we can do about this current situation? I asked Wim for his opinion;

“Signing this petition shows the public´s objection to the project. There are already approaching 15,000 signatures and this will help show government where the public stand.”

Talking further with Wim, he sees this moment as potentially positive as it could be a “great opportunity for the Canary Islands to choose renewable energy and become easily completely independent from any other source of energy. This petition is nothing against oil, I also drive a car! It is about drilling oil in a very sensitive, protected area which endangers the whole tourist industry”.

El Hierro is powered completely on renewable energy and doesn't have to answer to anyone on the subject of power. It would take time and investment but would bring a long term benefit to the Canaries and it´s people, without putting its tourist and fishing trade at risk, not to mention it´s paradise coastlines and all those who live within.

Sign Clean Ocean Project´s petition if you are concerned about the plans for oil excavation on the Canary Islands:


Here is a press release from the Clean Ocean Project:


On the black Friday* the Spanish Government has approved the proposal from the enterprise Repsol for oil prospecting in the Canary Islands. This company plans to use for the drilling 616.060 hectare of the east coast of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, amount of nearly 2.5 times the size of these two islands. Apart from benefiting Repsol there's no reason to install oil rigs in this area. However there are plenty of reasons against oil prospecting in the Central Atlantic :

- The area belongs to the Natural Reserve of Biosphere and in 2004 the Maritime International Organization declared this part of the ocean as especially sensitive.

- Crystal clear water in the area, white sand beaches and surroundings will be clearly polluted.

- Different species of cetacean, turtles, fish and thousands of invertebrates live and eat from the ground coral that will be destroyed if the drilling is allowed.

- Nearly one third of the species living in this part of the ocean are endemic.

- The chances of oil spill when drilling in deep waters are extremely high.

- The main income of the two islands is based on the tourism that enjoys the coast line and beaches.

- All water used in Fuerteventura and Lanzarote comes from the ocean, after being desalinated.

- Why using petrol when sun, wind and ocean power can be used instead?

- Citizens and local government from the Islands are totally opposed to the project but the central government ignores the fact.

- The constant burning of toxic gases will increase global warming, a worldwide concern.

- Repsol is known for cheating on the environmental measures taken in oil prospecting and has been involved in 7.000 oil spills in the last 5 years .



*Friday 16 th of March


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