Int'l wildlife group concerned over planned offshore drilling in east Mediterranean

09:39, February 10, 2011      

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The World Wildlife Fund, a leading international environmental watchdog, on Wednesday issued a warning about the potential impact of planned offshore natural gas drills in the east Mediterranean.

A statement appearing on WWF's official website singled out projects led by Israel and Egypt, accusing both of ignoring concerns for irreversible damage to marine ecosystems, as well as legal restrictions set down in international agreements on deep- sea exploitation.

The recent discovery of the Leviathan gas field, located 135 kilometers off the Israeli coast - the world's biggest deepwater gas find in a decade - has stirred "a scramble" to launch drilling, the statement said. It then mentions the West Nile Delta field, discovered earlier this year, 80 kilometers from the Egyptian city of Alexandria.

"The deep-sea floor in the Levant is teeming with life of a very special and unique kind. We strongly condemn blind drilling on biodiversity hotspots that could cause irreversible damage," said Dr. Sergei Tudela, Head of Fisheries at WWF Mediterranean.

"These unique marine ecosystems are particularly fragile and vulnerable to external interference," Tudela said, adding that the two drilling sites are home to diverse biological communities that "host rare species, some of which are thousands of years old."

The statement emphasized that the countries of the eastern Mediterranean are legally obliged to carry out comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) prior to approving oil and gas exploration in their respective areas. They are also bound by a protocol on preventing drilling-related pollution introduced in December 2010, which Israel has yet to ratify.

While the statement highlighted the Israeli and Egyptian projects, it also called on Cyprus, Lebanon and the European Union to ensure their adherence to the highest standards regarding current and future developments in deep-sea gas drilling.

Source: Xinhua

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