This Monday the Norwegian Petroleum Directory started the largest ever seismic shooting operation outside the Vesterålen islands in the north of Norway. The operation consists in shooting sound waves against the sea bottom to search for possible oil deposits.
This area is one of the most important for Norwegian fisheries, and the massive sound waves scare the fish away from their usual habitats and patterns.
“We demand a full stop to the seismic shootings”, said Bellona’s president Frederic Hauge who is present in the area in question, monitoring the situation from Bellona’s ship M/S Kallinika.
According to Norway’s new Ocean Resources Law the fisheries are supposed to have precedence over other activities in this area. But although there is fishing going on, the Norwegian Petroleum Directory continue the shooting and are planning to keep doing so for the next six weeks as they work their way closer to land.
The conflicts that are now taking place between oil and fish interests in the Lofoten and Vesterålen area is just a preview of what is to come if Norwegian politicians decide to let oil companies start oil drilling:
“The oil interests are completely overriding the local fishermen. This is a democratic problem. The oil companies have given promises of a peaceful coexistence with the fisheries, but it is now obvious to everyone that this is simply not possible on this very narrow part of the Norwegian continental shelf”, says Hauge, president of Bellona.
Oil drilling outside Lofoten and Vesterålen is set to become one of the big issues in the campaign for the Norwegian parliamentary elections in September.
The current government running for reelection is a coalition between the Labour Party, the Socialist Party and the Center Party. The government is split in this issue as the two latter parties are against oil drilling whilst the social democratic Labour Party, the largest coalition partner, is in favor of opening up the area for oil drilling.
The opposition is however also split on this vital issue that is not only a conflict between large oil companies and local industries, but also a question of nature preservation and climate change.