NASA Earth Observatory image modified by SkyTruth

Fighting Offshore Drilling in Latin America and the Caribbean

Cerulean

Cerulean Case Study

Fighting Offshore Drilling in Latin America and the Caribbean

The Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) uses the law and science to protect communities suffering from environmental harm. AIDA is leveraging Cerulean to expand their work against offshore drilling, which is growing in the area despite serious risks to the ocean—our planet’s greatest climate regulator—the vast biodiversity it harbors, and the livelihoods of coastal communities.

“From a legal perspective, we must have solid scientific proof of our claims to use in court. The Cerulean data will help with that in the future. We also want to raise public awareness, get people to talk about these issues, and set precedents that can be used for environmental protection at national and international levels.”

The current expansion of offshore infrastructure in Latin America is becoming more extreme with greater environmental complexity. Drilling in ultra-deep waters, at depths exceeding 1,500 meters, increases our dependence on fossil fuels and threatens the health of coastal communities and ecosystems. However, there is growing resistance to the blind advance of these projects and the damages they inflict.

Cerulean data will be incorporated into AIDA’s work to help regional environmental and human rights organizations monitor offshore oil spills in near real time. By providing scientific data to support claims of bilge dumping and oil spills, AIDA hopes to report on and bring civil society together around these incidents, and to hold companies and governments accountable.

“We’re trying to fill an information gap to pursue litigation that will help communities go after compensation for the harm caused by these spills,”

said Santiago Piñeros Durán, an attorney with AIDA’s Ecosystems Program.

Map showing 9,000 points of existing offshore oil infrastructure in Latin America.
Map showing locations of existing offshore oil infrastructure in Latin America. Points from Global Fishing Watch. Image © SkyTruth.
Multiple dead fish washed ashore in Tolú, Colombia on the Gulf of Morrosquillo in September 2024 after oil spills occurred in July and August the same year.
Multiple dead fish washed ashore in Tolú, Colombia on the Gulf of Morrosquillo in September 2024 after oil spills occurred in July and August the same year.
Photo credit: Julian Medina.

AIDA is working with SkyTruth to use Cerulean in the most valuable way for local communities. Their goal is to create daily alerts that use remote sensing data in combination with what fishermen and others on the coast observe. “We’re working to better understand how we can develop these strategies to monitor what’s happening in the ocean accurately and in a timely way,” said Santiago.

“We have heard from local fishermen that where there is offshore drilling and oil spills, there are fewer and polluted fish, which is their primary source of food and livelihood. Companies hire local people to clean up spills without any protocols or protection, causing health problems. These fishermen don’t have the technical or scientific support for their claims and have asked for our support. We’re planning to help them gather information through Cerulean and other tools so that they can make stronger arguments when communicating with authorities, hopefully motivating them to take action. Right now these spills are not commonly discussed even among decision-makers. It’s useful for us to point to this information and create awareness about what’s going on with a better understanding of the hidden costs of offshore oil infrastructure.”

“Cerulean is really easy to use and I’m finding it very valuable for the work that we do.”

Further Information