Oceana Says ‘NO’ to Seismic Airgun Survey in Belize’s Offshore Area
Despite GoB’s declared moratorium, Cabinet Approves Seismic Airgun Testing without an EIA
Last week, October 12, 2016, Oceana was advised by the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, and the Minister of Petroleum, Hon. Erwin Contreras, that at Tuesday’s meeting, the Cabinet approved the seismic survey of Belize’s offshore area based on the Department of the Environment’s advice that seismic activity does not require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
Oceana has formally requested an official copy of the Department of Environment’s written position provided to Cabinet, in addition to any materials related thereto, on the basis that the Department’s premise is not supported by the best available science. On the contrary, the magnitude of the proposed seismic activity is likely to have significant, long-lasting, and widespread environmental and economic impacts for Belize.
Seismic testing, the first step in oil and gas development, is an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean floor. The impact on marine mammals from such testing is significant. It disrupts mating and feeding habits, causes abandonment of habitat and temporary and permanent hearing loss, among other issues. It also adversely impacts the fishing and tourist industries.
Opening the waters east of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve and Belize’s Exclusive Economic Zone to seismic airgun exploration poses an unacceptable risk of serious harm to marine life at the species and population levels, the full extent of which will not be understood until long after the harm occurs. Mitigating such impacts requires a much better understanding of cumulative effects, which have not properly been assessed. To proceed otherwise is simply not sustainable.
Within such context then, Cabinet’s approval of seismic testing in Belize’s offshore area is being based on inadequate information. Oceana therefore urges Cabinet to stay its approval of seismic surveying in Belize, pending the submission of additional material or studies from interested groups and individuals to the Department of Environment for their consideration and presentation to Cabinet.
Oceana maintains that before any steps are taken to allow offshore seismic activity and exploration, the Government of Belize must ensure that tourism and fishing related jobs are protected; that an effective emergency response capacity is in place; that special places are safe from hazards, and that it has provided full, fair and public accounting, including the inherent risks involved with the oil industry, to the Belizean people.
From legal, economic, scientific and cultural perspectives, Oceana and thousands of Belizeans agree offshore oil is a bad idea. Oceana remain confident that the future will continue to reveal reasons why Belizeans should never risk our outstanding and globally unique resources with this type of activity.