Europe agrees to create marine protected areas

24th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

European countries agreed Friday to create six marine protected areas in the northeast Atlantic, in a bid to protect the region's environment.

The decision followed a meeting in Bergen, southwest Norway of OSPAR Commission, a body through which 15 regional countries, along with the European Union, work to protect the environment of the northeast Atlantic.

They defined six zones over a total area of 185,000 square kilometres (71,400 square miles) where human activity should be limited.

These zones comprise "a range of vulnerable deep-sea habitats and species", the OSPAR Commission said in a statement, adding that it wanted to create "a precedent" worldwide.

At the same meeting, European countries rejected a German ban proposal on deep-sea offshore drilling destined to avoid an environmental disaster comparable to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The proposal was quickly withdrawn following pressure from the region's oil-producing countries -- Britain, Denmark and Norway, Greenpeace said.

"Deeply concerned by the accident on the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year, we reaffirm our commitment to take all possible steps to prevent and eliminate pollution from offshore oil and gas activities," participants said in a ministerial statement.

The countries said they would review the existing frameworks as a precautionary measure, "including the permitting of drilling activities in extreme conditions".

Environmental organisation Greenpeace, which is also pushing for a ban of deep-sea offshore oil drilling, said the failed proposal was a "total victory for the oil industry".

Officials meeting in Bergen "did not have the political courage to protect us against another accident like Deepwater Horizon, while it was in their reach to do so", said Truls Gulowsen of Greenpeace Norway.

Shortly after the BP-leased Deepwater Horzion oil rig exploded in April, killing 11 and causing a catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, US President Barack Obama ordered a six-month freeze on deepwater offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Activists from the environmental group have since Tuesday occupied a Chevron-operated oil drilling ship anchored off the Shetland Isles to push for a ban on deepwater drilling in the North Sea.

At the end of August, Greenpeace activists climbed on to an oil rig operated by Scottish oil exploration group Cairn Energy off the coast of Greenland and halted drilling for more than a day.

© 2010 AFP

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