The Ampasindava block is located in the Majunga deep water basin, offshore north-west Madagascar.
The production sharing contract (PSC) for Ampasindava is held by Sterling (30% working interest) and ExxonMobil (70% working interest and operator). The PSC is in the third phase of the exploration period, which runs to July 2016, with a minimum work commitment of one exploration well.
In May-June 2008 during the exploration period, there was a mass stranding of "melon-headed" whales in Antsohihy, in the Loza Lagoon system. 75 of the 100 whales died. According to Scientists from the International Whaling Commission, this is due to ExxonMobil'use of multi-beam echosounders (MBEs) which produce blasts of more than 120 decibles.
But ExxonMobil denied this report and conclusion.
For the first time, this situation led to a debate about the sustainability, the risk and uncertainty issues of the Sterling and Exxon's activities on the Ampasindava offshore block. Most of the Malagasy people and the population of the North-West Region discovered at that time that the Ampasindava block has already been granted by the Government to Sterling and ExxonMobil.
Thus began the first opposition to the project. First, the Ampasindava Block is close to the Sahamalaza marine national park. Then, the Ampasindava Block is also close to Nosy Be, the "Island of perfumes" where the local livelihood is highly dependent to tourism for years.