Start of the action : 17/01/2019

Free the Bay of Biscay from oil drilling in 2019!


Surfrider Foundation Europe, with Surfrider Spain in charge, has the opportunity to lead the fight against oil drilling in the Bay of Biscay. We are able to capitalize on our past experience in the Mediterranean area and apply that to prevent Shell and Cairn Oil from drilling.



After an open call by the Spanish State for natural resource exploitation, the companies Capricorn Spain Limited and Shell Upstream Spain BV applied for these permits jointly on August 1, 2013. On October 1, 2014, the Official Bulletin of the Spanish State (BOE) published a Resolution of the General Directorate of Energy Policy and Mines of the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism, through which the requests for five hydrocarbon research permits named “Mesana 1”, “Mesana 2”, “Mesana 3”, “Mesana 4” and “Mesana 5”, located in the Bay of Biscay, off the coast of the Basque Country, were published.

After the Resolution in the BOE as requested by the current legislation, the public administration has to open the competitive offers period, which is now still open. Since no permits have yet been granted, the legal and economic consequences for the state are still limited. Thus, the incentive for the government to halt the project is a huge opportunity for us.


Surfrider Spain, through its office in San Sebastian, will lead the action, alongside our team in the Headquarters. Surfrider Spain is also part of “Allianza Mar Blava”, a coalition of 126 organizations representing the public and the private sector and also the civil society, which focused on the decarbonization of Mar Blava, the Catalan area of the Mediterranean sea. The action can count on the Alliance for support in legal, technical and communication fields.


Oil explorations and drilling are a major factor in Climate Change and are a direct threat to the Atlantic coast, their users, and wildlife. There are many climate change issues we face on a global level and so are the consequences for marine areas and the coastline. Several environmental challenges specifically related to ocean acidification, integrated shoreline management or even coastline conservation and planning are therefore emerging. Likewise, as overseas territories are particularly vulnerable to climate change, specific attention is needed as well as preventative and/or adaptation actions in those marine and coastal areas.

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The current Spanish government has stated that it is in favor of forbidding explorations of hydrocarbons in the seas. Recently, the current Ministry of the Environment approved some important legislation and protection figures such as the marine mammals’ corridor in the Mediterranean area nearby Barcelona to avoid new gas and oil explorations projects.

The eastern limit of the “Mesana 2” and “Mesana 5” permits are affected by an agreement between the Governments of Spain and France as it borders on the continental shelves between the two States in the Bay of Biscay, made in Paris on January 29, 1974 (BOE of July 9, 1975).


The main objective of this action is to ban oil explorations in this area, by building up a platform of a civil society aiming to boost the awareness of citizens on the need of decarbonization and impacts on marine ecosystems by oil and gas explorations. On the meaning and consequences of these activities.

To accomplish that, we want to achieve the definitive shelving of five requests for oil exploration permits called “Mesana”, requested by Cairn Energy and Shell in the Cantabric Sea and also to support the legislative proposition in the Mediterranean waters to ban the oil and gas explorations driving the first step toward the total banning in the Spanish waters.