Falkland Islands

Tagged with: Casework status: Open Casework type: Energy Site designations: Ramsar site
Black-browed albatross Thalassarche melanophrys, Bird Island, South Georgia, South Atlantic

Overview

The Falkland Islands are home to spectacular wildlife including internationally important populations of seabirds, penguins and a rich marine life. 

The Falkland Islands are an archipelago of islands (two large and 778 small islands) in the South Atlantic Ocean, approximately 400 miles off the coast of Argentina. 

It has a small population of 2,500 people, but tens of thousands of breeding seabirds and penguins also make the islands their home. At least sixteen species of whales have been found here and marine mammals abound, with a recovering population of Giant Elephant Seals. Since the early 2000's hydrocarbon exploration companies have been prospecting for oil reserves in licence areas far offshore to the north and south-east of the islands.

We have been working with our BirdLife partner on the Islands, Falklands Conservation, to try to ensure that these exploration expeditions are properly environmentally assessed, and that any risks of adverse impacts on the Falklands’ fantastic bird and marine life from the day to day operation of rigs, vessels and helicopters, or from accidents, are minimised and avoided.

We are now engaged in trying to ensure that the appropriate offshore baseline data is gathered to inform the environmental assessment of upcoming extraction operations. We are also working to ensure that the laws and policies which govern the oil industry and protect the marine and terrestrial environment more generally are fit for purpose. We hope to see a strong legacy of investment in the islands' environment as a result of the exploitation of its natural assets.

Map

Why is it worth fighting for?

The Falkland Islands is a UK overseas territory. As such, the UK government and the RSPB have a responsibility to help the Falkland Islanders protect its natural environment.

The Falklands has an extremely important natural legacy and are host to a staggering richness in breeding and migrant seabirds and penguins. 70 per cent of the global population of black-browed albatrosses (a globally endangered species) breed on the archipelago. Over a quarter of the global population of southern giant petrel and a third of all gentoo penguins likewise breed there.

The Falklands even has its own endemic species of flightless steamer duck which occurs there and no-where else on earth. Add to this the internationally important populations of seals, sea-lions and endangered whales which feed in the surrounding ocean, and you start to get a picture of why it is so important to conserve and protect the Falklands' marine environment and coastline.

Take action for local wildlife

A view of the loch at Abernethy

You might not realise it, but you have the power to influence local decisions to protect the wildlife around you. We’ve produced a Wildlife Action Pack full of information to help you make a difference.

Black browed albatross

Our position

The RSPB recognises that the Falkland Islanders need to grow and diversify their economy.

However, any offshore development and any associated port, storage or transfer facilities need be to located, designed and operated so the environmental impacts on internationally important wildlife assets are minimised and the chances of any accidents happening reduced to a remote possibility.

As such, we are working with our BirdLife International partner, Falklands Conservation, so that as applications come forward for oil and gas exploration (and eventually extraction) we provide close scrutiny to ensure that environmental impact assessments are undertaken properly. This includes ensuring adequate mitigation measures and plans put in place to remove and reduce the chance of adverse impacts occurring to birds and marine life. 

At the same time we are working with Falklands Conservation to advocate for a robust legislative, regulatory and policy framework in the Falklands on offshore licensing and consents, marine spatial planning, terrestrial spatial planning, environmental impact assessment, protected areas legislation and the designation and management of a protected area network. With a potential step-change in inward investment on the horizon, which could have negative implications on the environment if handled badly, it is vitally important the Falkland Islands Government puts in place and implements best practice environmental safeguarding and management.

At present there are also significant gaps in the baseline data available for how and when birds and marine mammals use the various offshore licence areas and in what numbers. This data deficiency needs to be addressed before licence applications for long-term operations are considered.

We believe that appropriate public and corporate policies should be established from the beginning to ensure industries based on the extraction of natural resources leave a legacy of significant environmental investment.

As the UK Government offers ultimate liability for oil drilling operations, it has a responsibility to play a positive role in helping ensure high standards of environmental governance.

 Black browed albatross Thalassarche melanophrys, West Point Island, Falklands.

Timeline

  • March 2018
    RSPB submits its formal response to the Premier Oil Sealion Phase I extraction licence Environmental Impact Statement (see downloads below). We have significant concerns with the baseline data used, consideration of alternatives and the non-provision of important reports in the consultation process. We highlight the need for robust oversight and enforcement of any licence, considering the potential risks to the globally important environment of the Falklands.
  • October 2016
    RSPB submits comments on Premier Oil’s 'pre-read' scoping document for its Extraction Licence Environmental Impact Assessment. We set out concerns related to what we feel are significant omissions in the information available in the public consultation. By not dealing with these issues now, they could lead to the potential for greater conflict once the formal EIA is submitted in 2017. 
  • June 2015
    RSPB reviews and provides comments on the additional Noble Energy exploration licence environmental impact statement.
  • March 2015
    RSPB comments on the draft Structure Plan for the Falkland Islands. We support policies governing conservation of the natural environment, whilst expressing concern about the lack of terrestrial Environment Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment legislation and policy.
  • November 2014
    RSPB reviews and provides comments on the Premier Oil exploration licence environmental impact statement. Some improvements over previous assessments, although the common problems regarding baseline data and lack of detail on mitigation measures remain.
  • August 2014
    RSPB reviews and provides comments on the Noble Energy exploration licence environmental impact statement.
  • June 2011
    RSPB reviews and provides comments on the Argos exploration licence environmental impact statement.
  • July 2010
    RSPB reviews and provides comments on the Desire Petroleum, Borders & Southern and Rockhopper exploration licence environment impact statements.
  • November 2009
    RSPB reviews and provides comments on the BHP Billington exploration licence environmental impact statement.
  • April 2009
    RSPB reviews and provides comments on the Desire Petroleum exploration licence environmental impact statement. Concerns raised over lack of recent and project-specific baseline data and detail on mitigation measures. These remain a common theme of concern in all the following responses.
  • 2001-2005
    Further production licences awarded to the north and south-east of the Falklands.
  • 1998-2001
    The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) commissioned to carry out a series of 'Seabirds and Sea' surveys to gather baseline data on seabirds and marine mammals in offshore licence areas.
  • 1998
    Initial exploration expedition carried out to prospect licence areas.
  • 1996
    Seven initial production licences given to companies for oil & gas in the North Falklands Basin.