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WWF Statement on the oil spill off the coast of Syria

WWF is deeply concerned about the oil leakage that occurred in Syria about a week ago. This preventable incident will have immediate and long-term effects on coastal ecosystems and vulnerable communities in the area. This is the second major oil spill that has occurred in the region this year.

An 800 km2 oil spill is threatening the coastline of Cyprus and Turkey, with potentially devastating consequences for marine biodiversity and ecosystems (as shown by recent satellite images analysed by Orbital EOS for WWF). The spill poses serious risks also for the communities and businesses that depend on tourism and marine resources for their livelihoods.

The spill originated from Syria, where, according to local reports, a rupture in a tank at the Baniyas Thermal Station led to large quantities of fuel being poured into the sea, and affected several municipalities that have already started cleaning procedures. The leaking tank was filled with 15,000 tons of fuel, according to the Syrian state news agency SANA

The recent accident represents a further reminder about the major risks associated with hydrocarbon extraction and processing in the semi enclosed basin of the Mediterranean, which does not allow the dispersion of oil pollutants and where the consequences of such accidents can cause long-term negative effects on coastal ecosystems and communities.

Mauro Randone, Coordinator of the Sustainable Blue Economy Programme at WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative said, “We urge all affected countries to act quickly and allocate funds so that an effective cleaning of the affected areas can be conducted to avoid further dispersion and contamination of pristine habitats and marine species. Mediterranean countries must take strong measures aimed at refitting and securing obsolete oil and gas infrastructures so that further incidents of this kind impacting vital ecosystems and vulnerable communities can be prevented.”

WWF urges Mediterranean countries to:
  • phase-out existing and ban new oil and gas exploration, extraction and processing projects in the region in a way that reflects the targets of the Paris Agreement, and ensure that no further investments are directed towards the oil and gas developments;
  • adopt a longer-term energy vision by setting clear targets for future energy use and exploring alternative energy sources to oil and gas; work with relevant international organisations to share  experiences and learn from other countries regarding energy supply, access and efficient use;
  • enforce stronger regulations to prevent such accidents, in particular through the ratification and effective implementation of the relevant Protocols of the Barcelona Convention (including the Offshore Protocol, Land Based Sources Protocol, Prevention and Emergency Protocol).
© ESA/Orbital EOS
Oil spill in Syria, September 2021