Monday

21st Jan 2019

Opinion

Adriatic Sea faces environmental threat

A potentially perilous environmental case is unfolding in Croatia.

In an attempt to revive the Croatian economy quickly, the Croatian authorities have published an international tender for offshore hydrocarbons exploration in the Adriatic Sea.

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  • The Adriatic coast is popular with tourists (Photo: turist.hr)

However, the Croatian authorities did not follow EU regulation when they allowed seismic sound mapping in the Adriatic without having conducted a thorough environmental assessment study first.

The Croatian government should have performed such a preliminary environmental impact and seismic survey risk assessment before it allowed mapping company Spectrum to carry out seismic exploration between September 2013 and January 2014 in Croatian Adriatic waters.

An environmental impact risk assessment is crucial to evaluate the effect of the survey on protected species.

It prevents the evaluation of the current state of aquatic biodiversity and distribution of species, which allows you to measure the negative impacts after any offshore drilling.

An environmental impact risk assessment that was done before the mapping, could have helped to plan any measures that need to be taken to protect endangered species.

Such an assessment is crucial to evaluate the effect on protected species, which is something that has been recognised by European lawmakers.

The Environmental Impact Assessment directive has been in place since 1985 and amended several times. It requires an environmental impact assessment is carried out before seismic exploration.

By not complying with this directive, the Croatian authorities are in breach of EU regulation.

Croatia’s actions also threaten the Adriatic’s sensitive ecosystem.

There has been an environmental assessment recently, but it was not enough. Marine scientists of the Croatia-based Blue World Institute of Marine Research and Conservation concluded that the study is incomplete and unprofessional. The assessment lacks a full scope of a scientific evaluation.

Additionally, Croatian officials have not engaged enough with their citizens to measure public opinion on drilling in the Adriatic - apart from brief, formal announcements on the official website of the ministry of economy. As a result, the average citizen is left in the dark over government offshore dealings.

Only a handful of environmental NGO’s, investigative reporters in the country, along with Blue World and its affiliates abroad are following the unfolding of the offshore drama in Croatia, sounding the alarm and calling for a complete moratorium on all hydrocarbon exploration in the Adriatic.

The lack of transparency only heightens media speculation. There are still many questions.

What is the exact role of the company Spectrum? Who covered the seismic exploration cost and under what conditions?

I requested comments from the Croatian Ministries of Economy, Environment and Natural Protection, as well as from Spectrum Geo Limited. The requests were not returned.

Zeljana Grubisic is a research fellow at the Adriatic Institute for Public Policy

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