Norway’s scenic Lofoten archipelago is known for its stunning mountains shooting straight up from the sea, and for its crystal-clear waters. Local residents are uniting to protect the area from oil companies including Norway’s own Statoil, and now even church groups are involved.
The districts of Lofoten and Vesterålen have been drumming up support from the whole country to restrict oil exploration and drilling activity off their coasts. A formal grassroots protest organization was formed last month and had more than 800 members even before its launch, reported newspaper Aftenposten.
“Our goal is to get the Norwegian Parliament to protect the seas around here,” Gaute Wahl of the Lofoten fishing community of Svolvær told Aftenposten. Wahl, who heads the organization Oljefritt Lofoten og Vesterålen(Oil-free Lofoten and Vesterålen) said the group has won support from politicians and the fishing industry as well as from environmental groups.
The fishing industry, for example, protested seismic exploration operations carried out by some oil companies last summer, claiming that the seismic activity scared away fishing stocks. The local tourist industry, a major source of revenue for Lofoten, has also expressed concern over oil exploration and prospective drilling in the area.
In mid-February, a group of state church officials, religious organizations and a local bishop organized a protest march in Oslo again oil exploration and drilling around Lofoten. Leaders of the protest told Norwegian Broadcasting that they had both social and environmental concerns about the oil activity.
Their protest didn’t sit well, however, with everyone in the northern coastal area. Local labour leaders don’t want to discourage the job opportunities that oil operations can bring, while others thought the issue was better left to politicians than the church.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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