The first day of the Anglo-Argentine oil talks in London (on July 26) has focused upon scientific and engineering issues involved in offshore exploration in the South West Atlantic.
The Scientific Sub-Committee's deliberations prepare the way for the more politically sensitive second day (July 27) for the South West Atlantic Hydrocarbons Commission as the De La Rua Government delegation indicate more precisely their attitude to co-operation in oil exploration and exploitation under the 1995 Agreement negotiated by the previous Menem Government.
One important item on the agenda where both sides agree is protection of the environment and prolific wildlife in these waters, an issue brought starkly to prominence by the recent oil spill off South Africa from a sunken iron carrier which struck the coast of Robben Island, enveloping many penguins and other wildlife in oil.
The British and Argentine experts in London have available to them new data collated in a Falklands Conservation project carried out by the Seabirds at Sea Team of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. It includes the results of a recent two-week survey by the chartered vessel Golden Fleece in the Special Area of Co-operation between the United Kingdom and Argentina (designated in the 1995 Agreement ) in waters between the Falkland Islands and Argentine zones. The survey showed that the area has far fewer seabirds in the southern winter months in contrast to summer when there are large concentrations of prions, diving petrels and storm petrels.
Falklands Conservation is preparing a map indicating the potential vulnerability of seabird concentrations to the effects of oil and other surface pollution.
Harold Briley, London