Summary and Conclusion

Maze coral (Meandrina meandrites). Photo © Eduardo Klein

Maze coral (Meandrina meandrites). Photo © Eduardo Klein

This partnership between PDVSA, Intecmar, and The Nature Conservancy is a unique example of collaboration between petroleum and environmental regulators.

A key contributor to the potential success of this project is its timing. Priority conservation areas and recommended practices were identified before the beginning of the oil project life cycle. Consequently, PDVSA will be able to include environmental considerations in much of its planning and in all contractual documentation with private companies that will perform the extraction. The early-stage timing of this conservation project consequently minimizes the cost to PDVSA of working with environmental considerations. This is a win-win situation since it minimizes economic and environmental risks to all the parties.

Another aspect of this project that adds to its potential success is its multi-layered objective scheme. Although it is recommended that several high-priority conservation areas remain untouched, if PDVSA chooses to exploit oil in these areas it may follow recommended environmentally conscious practices such that negative ecological impacts are minimized. Furthermore, PDVSA may include guidelines and policies suggested by The Nature Conservancy and Intecmar in its bidding contracts to lessen environmental degradation. The overlapping objectives in the plan increase the likelihood of obtaining the conservation goals.

Oil industry exploration and priority areas. Click on map to enlarge.

Oil industry exploration and priority areas. Click on map to enlarge.

The project not only identified the current conservation status, sensitivity and vulnerability of marine ecosystems in Venezuela, but also established a set of priority areas for the conservation of coastal and marine biodiversity along the country’s Caribbean coast and continental shelf. Identification of these areas with the siting of exploration blocks has lead to an effort to create a zoning scheme for offshore oil and gas exploitation activities.

The implementation of the proposed strategies and the monitoring of biological and ecological features could prevent irreversible damages to marine biodiversity and help mitigate unavoidable impacts.

Lessons Learned

  • Involve key decision makers from the beginning of the multi-objective planning process.
  • Decision makers prefer to make informed decisions. Make scientific information more digestible, so they can use it.
  • Development sectors are interested in reducing environmental risk to save money.
  • Funding for planning and licensing can be allocated more strategically when higher-level conservation outcomes have been defined.
  • Simple, practical, and transparent methods for environmental assessment and monitoring are needed that can be adopted by government, developers, and environmentalists. The science needs to be made operational for these stakeholders.
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