Environmental coalition urges President to stop oil exploration

Twenty NGOs have urged President Abdulla Yameen to stop plans for oil exploration in Maldivian waters, or risk the country’s economic and environmental health.

In a joint statement of concern, marine conversation NGO OceanCare’s President Sigrid Lueber warned that the oil explorations could have “severe socio-economic consequences in the fisheries and tourism sector”.

After pledging during his election campaign to begin new efforts to find oil, President Yameen’s government has claimed investor interest in the project, while a German research vessel carried out a seismic survey last August.

Speaking to Minivan News today, founder of local environmental NGO Ecocare, Maeed Zahir, said that the public does not take seriously the concerns put forward by local NGOs.

“Several people have questioned our technical expertise on oil exploration and used it as an excuse to dismiss our concerns,” said Maeed. “However, with several international NGOs speaking out against the exploration we hope it will be taken more seriously.”

The statement of concern was also sent to several members of the cabinet, including fisheries minister Dr Mohamed Shainee, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, economic development minister Mohamed Saeed, and environment minister Ahmed Thoriq.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz said that only the president could comment on correspondence addressed personally to him, directing Minivan News to the relevant ministers for updates on the exploration project – none of whom were responding to calls at the time of publication.

The Maldives has also been included OceanCare’s silent oceans campaign. The NGO – which was granted Special Consultative Status with the UN’s Economic and Social Council in 2011 – is encouraging people to write to Adeeb urging an end to exploration.

Seismic impact

The NGO coalition’s statement of concern warned that exploration will have adverse effects on the Maldivian economy as a result of negative impacts on fisheries.

Seismic air guns – one of the most commonly used survey methods for offshore oil exploration – produce loud bursts of sound by introducing air into water at high pressure which then penetrates hundreds of kilometers into the earth’s crust.

OceanCare stated that the air guns produce a pulse of noise lasting 20 to 30 milliseconds, which is repeated an average of every 10 to 15 seconds, often for 24 hours a day.

“Three decades of controlled scientific studies leave no doubt that intense sound damages fish and impact fisheries,” said the Swiss NGO. “Ocean noise has a negative effect on at least 55 marine species.”

A recent study commissioned by the Namibian government revealed a sharp decline in catch as a result of increased seismic exploration in the Orange River Basin. The country’s tuna catch shrunk from 4,046 tons in 2011 to a mere 650 tons in 2013 after a shift in migratory routes.

(IMAGE: Championsforcetaceans.com)

Similarly, the Australian tuna industry has said the process may threaten the survival, abundance, or evolutionary development of native species or ecological communities.

Additionally, a recent study into the impacts of air guns on marine life ranked them as the second highest contributor of underwater noise caused by humans – only underwater nuclear detonations have been found to cause more.

The NGO statement also noted the adverse effects on marine biodiversity as a result of such surveys, pointing out that Maldivian tourism is heavily dependent on a healthy and diverse marine eco-system.

Tourism and fishing account for 90 percent of the Maldives’ GDP, while providing three-quarters of all employment and two thirds of foreign exchange earnings.

The government’s development plans include both a reduced reliance on tourism, as well as minimising the country’s dependence on imported fuel through the enhanced use of renewables. Imported fuel consumes around one third of the Maldives’ GDP.

Preliminary Research

Last year, the German research vessel ‘Sonne‘ – which came to the Maldives to conduct research into global warming – conducted preliminary research exploration free-of-charge on the government’s request.

While pointing out the importance of proper Environmental Impact Assessments in oil explorations, the coalition of environmental groups expressed concern that no such EIA or public consultation was undertaken prior to this research.

Speaking at the time, fisheries minister Dr Shainee said that explorations will be carried out in one of three areas which have properties suggesting the presence of oil and gas. The identified locations were located 100 miles east of the area between Laamu and Thaa atoll.

Shainee also said that the information obtained will be shared with the Maldives in the first quarter of 2015. He said that the data would not be shared with any third party, and that further explorations would follow to confirm any positive findings.

In February 2014, the Maldives National Oil Company Ltd – a subsidiary of the State Trading Organization – said it would soon begin advertising the country as a destination for oil exploration.

Speaking at the 18th Saarc Summit held last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India wishes to assist Maldives in its search for oil reserves, while cabinet members reported that oil exploration was on the agenda of the first China-Maldives joint commission on trade, held in December.

Related to this story

Maldives to begin oil exploration with assistance of research vessel

Oil drilling and Maldives’ tourism “cannot coexist”, says NGO Bluepeace

Maldives National Oil Company seeks assistance with oil exploration


9 thoughts on “Environmental coalition urges President to stop oil exploration”

  1. i urge these 20 NGO to help the Gov. to raise extra revenues or donate funds to build the nation.

    If they can not give any donation or help the Gov , then Gov, should try all means to increase the revenue to develop the nation.

  2. Oil in Maldivian waters? Holy Krishna. I haven't laughed so much in years. The only oil in Maldivian waters is waste oil from passing tankers. India and China shouldn't take the bait from the STO and waste their time prospecting for imaginary oil. It will be like looking for water on Mars.
    BTW, there is no gold on Raa Atoll or Uranium on Thilafushi either. OK Hero?

  3. To be honest there aren't many real NGO's here. All NGOs are to some extent formed by the same people with the same mindset. Its like running fake paper companies by crooks. They run multiple ngos hoping they will get a grant from some wayward US or Euro fund. that happens sometimes and once the money is received the NGO dissapears. No honesty here. That being said most NGOs are also run by MDP activists. So they will follow the party line whatever happens.
    As for oil exploration its a worthwhile and who knows what we will come up with? Brunei also spent many years prospecting for oil and at last they were successful after many failed years...

  4. @MissIndia.
    Don't get too excited . Corrupt GMR will never be able to set tiger foot in our soil.

    We will not allow India to bully this country and Maldives is far more developed than India.

    You need to spend you time to teach 60% of your population how to use Toilets first .

    You need to provide clean water and basic health and education for 60% of the population who are deprived from these services first.

    Shut your mouth and we are not afraid of you and GMR

  5. @Hero: So your bosses can stash it in their swiss bank accounts?


    If Maldives were completely free of parasites like you, we'd be rich and free.

  6. @ hero

    If you and your gods start oil exploration, then Maldives should be cut off from all foreign aid and investment related to climate change, rising sea levels, etc. You can have it both ways. Maldives always blaming other bigger countries for climate change but you don't practice what you preach. But practicing what you preach has never been a strength of Maldivian government/religious leaders now has it.

  7. Dear Editor ,
    Earth Island Institute joins in the call to not start oil exploration in Maldives. As the organization that has worked with the Maldives tuna industry for dolphin safe certification and sustainable tuna catch, we see this as a bad idea for the pristine waters of Maldives.
    Any type of oil spill accident plus the harmful impact of oil drilling would devastate the tuna fisheries.

    The beautiful white sands and blue waters of Maldives would be turned into a blackened muck that would take years to return to health.

    All one has to look at is the Gulf of Mexico near Louisiana and see that the oil spill devastation has caused fisheries to collapse in some areas causing the loss of hundreds of jobs .

    The Exxon Valdez spill of years ago still shows oil on beaches , fisheries problems and marine mammals and birds still at risk.

    Do the right thing and abandon this short sighted and unsustainable idea.
    Mark Berman
    Earth Island Institute

  8. Dear Mark Berman

    It may interest you to know that it is the same Minister of Fisheries of Maldives who is going on the headline offensive on Oil Exploration one day and Tuna Conservation the next day. Due to recent sighting of crocodiles, we are expecting him to make a BIG HEADLINE on crocodile farming in Maldivest his week.


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