Representatives of local conservation organisations, the oil industry, and the Falkland Islands Government recently attended the first meeting of the Falkland Islands Offshore Hydrocarbons Environmental Forum held on the 27th September in Stanley.
The newly elected chair, Phyl Rendell commented that “the Offshore Hydrocarbons Environmental Forum provides an ideal meeting point for the oil industry, environmentalists and local stakeholders where issues can be discussed and information exchanged”.
It is intended that the Forum will provide a mechanism for members to exchange information and to voice opinions regarding environmental aspects of the oil and gas industry in and around the Falkland Islands. Phyl Rendell highlighted that “The Forum is a less formal workshop setting for discussion than government committees and with its wide local membership the role of the Forum will be to advise and make recommendations to the Department of Mineral Resources and the Environmental Planning Department for onward consideration within the Falkland Islands Government”
The Falkland Islands have in the past received international acclaim for the sustainable management of their fisheries, which are widely accepted as one of the best managed in the world. The local control and management of the fisheries by the Falkland Islands Government has been based on robust scientific assessment and open consultation to involve all stakeholders. This has achieved not only efficient management of fish stocks but also minimised impacts to other wildlife, with environmentalists and industry working together to eliminate the incidental mortality of albatrosses. It is hoped that the establishment of the oil forum will establish similar mechanisms within the fledgling hydrocarbon sector.
Nick Rendell, of the Environmental Planning Department, stated that “the Falkland Islands have already ensured that environmental controls are in place and that full Environmental Impact Assessments have been performed for all operations within the current exploratory phase. All seismic and drilling operators have been proactive and voluntarily adopted United Kingdom and European best practise guidelines.
However, it is acknowledged that the Falklands are a new environment with unique sensitivities and that in the future more specific guidelines tailored to our specific location may be required. The Forum will be able to review and make recommendations regarding the nature, scope and schedule of any environmental monitoring programmes, directed research or other studies, including responsibilities for funding, project management and follow-up”.
During the first meeting Falkland Oil and Gas Ltd presented the findings of the Environmental Impact Statement for their upcoming drilling programme in the South and East Falkland basins, whilst Rockhopper Exploration Plc, reviewed the findings of independent environmental monitoring conducted during recent seismic surveys and drill rig flaring operations. In addition Rockhopper highlighted new initiatives working with the Falkland Islands Fisheries Department to catalogue deep seabed communities from video footage taken by remote operated vehicles utilised for seabed survey.
Phyl commented that, “the first meeting was extremely successful with all parties engaging in an open and positive discussion. Already, a group have agreed to address scientific data gaps in the areas being drilled and will report on their work at the next Forum meeting to be held in March”.
By Grant Munro - SeAled PR Ltd