The Argentinian organizations of the Forum for the Conservation of the Patagonian Sea and Areas of Influence express our categorical rejection of the approval of the project presented by the Equinor company to carry out seismic exploration in the North Argentina basin off the southern coast of the province of Buenos Aires. This project was approved by Resolution No. 436/2021 by the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of the Nation, and published in the Official Gazette today, December 30th, 2021.
During Public Hearing N°1/21 held last July, the purpose of which was to consider environmental impact assessment documentation, more than 90% of the voices present during the three days of the hearing were against the project. Scientists, researchers, technicians from various institutions, non-governmental organizations, and representatives of the fishing sector highlighted the negative impacts this activity could generate on marine life and on other socio-economic activities, such as tourism and fishing, not only in Argentina but also at a regional level.
At that hearing, the Forum expressed its concern and requested a strategic environmental assessment before authorizing the activity, which was not contemplated in this process or in the report presented by the company.
The Argentinian State has the responsibility to enforce the constitutional right to a healthy, balanced environment suitable for human development and for productive activities to satisfy present needs without compromising future generations. In this sense, and in light of the prevailing ecological and climatic crisis, it must consider the authorization of productive activities based on a comprehensive analysis of their ecosystemic impacts, under the precautionary principle imposed by the General Environmental Law (No. 25.675). Likewise, it must honor the international commitments to which the country subscribes, such as those of the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Aichi Targets that promote the creation of Marine Protected Areas; the Paris Agreement of the Convention on Climate Change that seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so as not to exceed an increase of 1.5 ºC; and the Escazú Agreement on access rights in environmental matters. In view of the latter, the corresponding annexes should be included in Resolution No. 436/2021 to know the entirety of its implications for proper environmental information.
The negative impacts of the authorized activity will transcend the spatial and temporal limits of the granted concessions. In this sense, we request the competent authority to suspend the initiation of the project called “ARGENTINA OFFSHORE SEISMIC ACQUISITION CAMPAIGN; NORTHERN ARGENTINA BASIN (CAN 108, CAN 100 AND CAN 114 AREAS)” as a precautionary measure until a strategic environmental assessment is carried out and strict compliance with all the provisions of the national and international environmental legislation is in full force and effect.
Seismic impacts at sea
The blocks with exploration permits are located on the slope, a key area for the ecological and functional structure of the Argentinian sea and the region, with great influence of the Malvinas current and where the largest and most productive seafront at the regional level is generated. The frontal areas influence biological productivity processes, trophic structure, life histories, CO2 fluxes, among others, and therefore their conservation is a priority.
Seismic prospection generates intense underwater acoustic explosions that can be detectable thousands of kilometers away. The introduction of noise into the sea can affect the essential biological functions of marine mammals, turtles, fishes, and birds. The potential effects on marine wildlife are diverse and range from serious injury to death, physical and/or physiological effects, hearing impairment, masking, and behavioral changes.
In addition to the impact of seismic prospecting, the subsequent exploitation of hydrocarbon resources is associated with potential threats to marine life and their habitats, such as the risk of oil spills and gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels that worsen the effects of climate change. In a scenario where the devastating effects of global change are manifested daily, the approval of this project results in a setback for the life and health of the environment and the people.