Joint letter from 15 environmental organizations for the immediate cessation of seismic surveys in the Ionian

Honorable Prime Minister,

Honorable Ministers,



In the wider marine area where three stranding incidents of the species Ziphius cavirostris were recorded on the morning of the 20th and 21st of February, the research vessel “SW Cook” is active, since February 10 conducts seismic surveys within the marine area “Ionio”, on behalf of the Hellenic Petroleum SA company, following the seismic surveys carried out in the marine area “Kyparissiakos Gulf”.Given the fact that just a few hours ago and within two days a third stranding of Ziphius cavirostris was recorded on the coast of Corfu, increased surveillance  is needed in order to prevent more incidents. We therefore welcome the ascertainment of the Hellenic Ministry of Environment and Energy that there is a need for increased vigilance to prevent other such incidents. 

Considering the serious effects of noise on cetaceans, especially when it derives from seismic surveys or the use of military sonar, which are clearly documented in the international literature (eg loss of auditory sensitivity, temporary or permanent trauma, change in behavior, stress increase, stranding, death, etc.), according to the precautionary principle, the seismic surveys that are currently conducted in the area should be ceased immediately. This is the only way to prevent further disturbance to the protected species, as required by international, EU and national law, and the exact causes of these incidents should be investigated.

It should be noted that Decision 7.13 of the ACCOBAMS Agreement (Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area) specifically refers in stranding incidents and the obligation of acoustic pulses to be ceased and the maximum effort to be exerted in order to understand the causes.

It is pointed out that the temporary prohibition of activity that causes pollution or other degradation of the environment is explicitly required by article 30 par. 2 of law 1650 until the appropriate measures are taken to prevent this degradation. Additionally, taking measures in order to avoid and limit further damage is a clear obligation of the contractor as explicitly provided in Article 12A par. 3 of Law 2289/1995 (as amended and in force): “[the] Contractor is also obligated to receive all necessary measures in order to minimize any environmental pollution or damage to water, soil or atmosphere which may be caused in connection with hydrocarbon activities’. The same provision also states that “in the event that the Leaser or Employer deems that any work or erected installation or activities carried out may endanger persons or property of a third party or pollute or cause damage to the environment, fauna, flora or marine organisms, requests from the Contractor to take remedies, within a reasonable period of time and to repair any damage to the environment. In that case the corrective measures should include the cessation of seismic investigations in order to prevent any further danger to the species or the possibility of more strandings. A similar obligation of the contractor is to take remedies as well as request the cessation of the work, in cases where there is a reasonable reason that certain work harms aquatic life. This obligations are provided in the contract for the exploration of oil and mineral exploration rights, which has been ratified by Law 4629/2019 (AD154) (articles 9 par. a 2 ed. f) and article 12 par. 4). It is also pointed out that it is a contractual obligation of the leaser in the event of “emergency or accident affecting the environment” “to take any action in a prudent and necessary manner according to the Environmental Legislation and the Rules of Science and Research Art and Exploitation of Hydrocarbons» (Article 12 par. 13). 

Taking into account the above, we invite you to immediately request from the leasing company “Hellenic Petroleum SA”, the cessation of their work in order to permanently remove the risk and to determine the exact causes of the strandings, but also to prevent the possibility of new ones. We also call for preparation and vigilance in the following days in all the islands and coastal areas of the Ionian Sea.