Portugal’s surf community is perplexed by its government’s approval to drill an oil exploration well off the Alentejo region’s coast, one of the finest preserved stretch of European coastline.
The park includes various unique species of animal and plant life. The landscape is marked by steep cliffs that have been given various forms and coloring by centuries of erosion. Different species of birds can be seen here, such as rare fishing eagles. The rarest of them all is the white stork, given that this is the only place in the world where they build their nests in the seashore rocks. This is also the only place in Portugal and one of the last places in Europe where it is possible to find otters in a marine habitat. And on top of it all, the beaches are highly popular amongst surfers and are the finest in the country.
The new approval means that between September 15, 2018, and January 15, 2019, the Galp / ENI consortium may begin oil drilling operations on condition that it notifies the government just 15 days in advance. Despite the 42,000 objections raised by citizens in the public consultation on offshore exploration, the Portuguese Environment Agency dispensed the need for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to drill a hole that can reach 3km deep at 46km from Aljezur.
When issuing a petroleum or gas exploration title, the government has chosen to defend private interest to the detriment of the public. There is a consistent defense of the interests of business above the interests of the community and the risks associated with this activity, especially in a region of high seismic risk — the epicenter of one of the country’s two largest earthquakes.
We don’t have to look back very far to remember the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe that took place during a drilling phase in the Gulf of Mexico, whose devastating effects are still apparent years later with a significant loss of marine life. Meanwhile, Portugal made a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050 even though its government is currently supporting the fossil fuel industry, taking a polar opposite step toward achieving sustainable development. Therefore, the surf community has called upon all citizens to speak out in defense of the environmental, social, economic and cultural heritage with a petition to save one of Europe’s last pieces of mostly untouched wilderness.
And on July 7th at 3 PM, a group of concerned citizens will be holding their own demonstration against offshore drilling along the Aljezur coast. This civic movement calls for a human chain at sea, with surfers, bodyboarders, and swimmers along all the beaches of the Portuguese coast. Their intention is to claim the sea as a communal space to be shared by all, protesting the potentially disastrous changes supported by the Portuguese government. This protest invites all those who want to defend the sea against oil drilling, to create local solidarity by painting a black cross on the face of every participant and sharing photos on social media with the hashtag #PetróleoÉMáOnda.
For an oil-free future and for the protection of the ecosystem shared by all, the event advocates for a transition to renewable energy and the decarbonization of Portugal energetic consumption, given the country’s incredible natural resources.
List of beaches already confirmed:
Aljezur – Praia de Monte Clérigo
Albufeira – Praia dos Pescadores
Foz do Arelho
Lagos – inicio da Meia Praia
Praia de Faro – Centro Náutico
Praia Aberta Nova
Tavira – Cabanas, junto ao kitesurf
Sagres – Praia do Tonel
Lisbon and Central region
Costa de Caparica – São João
Costa de Caparica – Praia da Rainha
São Pedro do Estoril
Ericeira – Ribeira de Ilhas
Figueira da Foz – Praia do Cabedelo
Santa Cruz – Praia da Física
Setúbal – Praia de Albarquel
Porto – Matosinhos (edificio de vidro)
Aveiro – Praia do Furadouro
Aguçadoura – Praia da Barranha
Esposende – Ofir