Biodiversity in the eastern Mediterranean Sea could take a deadly hit if drillers rush in on recently discovered gas-rich fields, the World Wildlife Fund warned Wednesday.
The international environmental organization warned that gas drilling in the area shared by Turkey, Israel and Egypt could ravage the sea’s ecosystem, which would take at least a millennium to regrow.
Gas drillers have been eager to capitalize on the recently discovered Leviathan gas field, a deepwater area off the Israeli coast that may hold as much as 16 trillion cubic feet of gas, AFP reports.
The West Nile Delta gas field, another potentially lucrative region for drillers, was discovered earlier this year. That field is located off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt.
But the eastern Mediterranean is home to rare species that are millennia old, including deep-sea sponges and cold water corals. Sergi Tudela, head of WWF’s Mediterranean Fisheries Program, says this makes them particularly vulnerable.
Tudela said that once the sea is tapped for gas, “it can take a millennium or more before the unique micro-ecosystem grows again, so the most fragile and valuable species and under-sea areas must be left untouched by gas development,” according to AFP.
WWF appealed to the European Union and a number of Mediterranean countries to prohibit deep-sea drilling and industrial development in the areas.