As the economic crisis is driving crisis-hit Mediterranean states to a frantic quest for new oil and gas deposits, areas of exceptional ecological significance are placed under serious threat.
In Spain, the pristine marine and coastal environment of the Columbretes islands (Castellón) is about to host a new oil exploration survey. Early in January 2013, the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism gave its initial consent for the project, which will have to obtain an environmental permit from the Ministry of Environment, before the final approval is signed.
If finally approved, the exploration survey will begin in 2015.
The Columbretes islands enjoy protection status at the level of the Autonomous Region (Natural Park and Natural Reserve), at the national level (Marine Fisheries Reserve), at the EU level (SCI and SPA) and at the international level (Specially Protected Area of Mediterranean Importance).