The Spanish and Moroccan governments are moving forward with plans to explore for oil near the Canary Islands despite opposition from the tourism industry and environmentalists in the Spanish archipelago.

The two governments have authorized oil exploration projects in the area even though the maritime boundaries are not set, with territorial limits established by an imaginary line equidistant between the Moroccan coast and the Canary Islands, which belong to Spain.

Some residents of the islands, whose economy relies on tourism, are concerned about the possible effects of an oil spill, while others contend the energy industry would create jobs in a region dealing with an unemployment rate of 33 percent.

The fields in the area could hold up to 1.4 billion barrels of petroleum and produce 140,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude, helping Spain meet 10 percent of its daily demand for oil, Spanish oil company Repsol said.

Morocco, meanwhile, said Scottish oil company Cairn Energy planned to begin exploration work in the next few weeks in blocks adjacent to those granted by the Spanish government to Repsol some 60 kilometers (37 miles) off Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.

The Cajun Express rig leased by Cairn Energy will begin operations in early October some 555 kilometers (about 345 miles) northeast of the Canary Islands.

The start of exploration by Repsol, which is working with Germany's RWE and Australia's Woodside, is still pending completion of the environmental review process. EFE