Danger to Moray Firth wildlife is marked by 20,000 protests

Ship-to-ship oil transfer protests collected 20,000 signatures.

Ship-to-ship oil transfer protests collected 20,000 signatures.

THOUSANDS OF MORAY residents were among the 20,000 who signed one of three petitions submitted to the Cromarty Firth Port Authority (CFPA) calling on them to abandon ship-to-ship oil transfer plans.

Consideration has been ongoing since the end of last year over the CFPA application to allow such transfers on the Moray Firth – however, protests have been raised over the dangers that would pose to the resident Whale and Dolphin population.

The three petitions were jointly handed in to the CFPA this week along with a letter verifying the integrity of at least half of the signatures.

Amongst those objecting to the proposal is the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Highland Council. In Moray objections have come mainly from members of the public, local fisheries and environmental groups fearful of the effect a spill could have on beaches from Findhorn to Lossiemouth.

CFPA say they wish to carry out oil transfers of up to 180,000 tonnes between vessels anchored on the Moray Firth at the mouth of the port. Supporters of the application have insisted that it poses no danger, pointing to a safety record in other parts of the world where the system is in use.

Campaigners, however, say that there remains a risk and spills have occurred during transfers, insisting that it is better not to take such risks given the proximity of the port to such high concentrations of marine life.

Petitioner Kathryn Stribley summed up the feelings of most campaigners when she said: “If we fail [to stop this] the risk is that the Firth’s dolphins could be killed and lots of sealife affected by potential oil spills and dirty water pumped from ships.”

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is still considering the proposal, while a spokesman for the CFPA insisted: “Our priority is listening to the views of our customers and the people who live and work in the Firth’s communities.”