RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Greenpeace activists dressed as oil-covered humpback whales shut down a petroleum services company Wednesday to protest oil exploration near a Brazilian marine national park.
Two groups of activists took part: those dressed as whales and others dressed in suits and masks that resembled the face of Eike Batista, the Brazilian billionaire who controls the oil-services and shipbuilding company OGX Brasil. The Batista look-alikes dumped oil on top of the protesters dressed as whales in front of OGX's headquarters.
Humpback whales breed near Abrolhos, an archipelago off the coast of the northeastern state of Bahia that is home to the Abrolhos Marine National Park.
Greenpeace wants oil companies to agree to a 20-year moratorium on oil exploration near the islands, so the whales have time to reproduce and increase their population, said Ricardo Baitelo, the international organization's energy-campaign coordinator for Brazil.
The humpback whales were decimated around the globe before the International Whaling Commission gave them worldwide protection status in 1966.
The national park is the only area in the south Atlantic where the whales breed, making it essential to their survival, Baitelo said.
OGX director Paulo Mendonca said the company's operations are fully compliant with Brazilian legislation.
"The company considers the Abrolhos Marine National Park important for biodiversity, and believes it should be preserved," Mendonca said in a written statement.
Greenpeace kicked off its moratorium campaign this year in response to a federal court's decision in December to allow oil exploration within a previously protected, 30-mile (50-kilometer) radius of the national park.
Shortly after the decision, the National Petroleum Agency, or ANP, opened bidding for exploration licenses on 16 blocks that were completely or partially included in the previously protected area, the agency said in a statement issued at the time.
Companies that snapped up the licenses included Petrobras, with the greatest number of blocks, Shell, Perenco and Batista's OGX, among others.
Greenpeace sent a letter to the companies about three weeks ago asking them to voluntarily refrain from exploring in the area, Baitelo said. The organization ideally would like to protect nearly 37,000 square miles (93,000 square kilometers) of territory, including the park, Baitelo said. At the very least, it wants to ensure protection of the previously protected area.
Brazil's state-run oil giant Petrobras responded that it wasn't going to explore within the 30-mile (50-kilometer) radius.
But other companies didn't respond, including OGX and Perenco, an Anglo-French oil and gas company.
Greenpeace protested at Perenco's Rio de Janeiro office on Tuesday.
"We're trying to push them to give us an answer now," Baitelo said.