Early December saw over 500 concerned protestors gather at Nairn Beach, Scotland, to voice their concerns over proposed ship to ship oil transfers, involving eight million tonnes of crude oil, in the inner Moray Firth. The Cromarty Firth Port Authority (CFPA) applied for a licence to undertake such transfers in the location due to issues in continuing the transfer practice at the pre-established Nigg oil terminal. If permitted, these transfers could result in the annual discharge of almost two million tonnes of contaminated ship ballast water directly into a site described as one of the worst possible sites for such activity throughout Europe by Alan Airey and Howard Loates of the Cromarty Rising Group and also Sea Watch Foundation. In response to these proposed transfers, much concern has been voiced by members of the local communities, and NGO organisation (e.g SEPA, the Marine Conservation Society, and RSPB Scotland), due to the proximity of the proposed location to local SAC and SPA sites. Many people worry that the transfers might increase the potential for future oil spill events, which are known to severely degrade ecosystem function and marine health. Recent research has indicated that even the fumes from crude oil in ballast water might exert significant long-term negative health benefits on cetacean species, which is of particular concern as the Moray Firth supports one of the largest resident bottlenose dolphin pods in the UK.Bottlenose dolphins, like those found in the Moray Firth Photo credit Laura Bartlett
The CFPA claims that the proposed transfers could stimulate the local economy through income and fund interest payments, however with no new jobs being generated many locals believe the potential decline in ecosystem service value negatively outweighs the potential economic boost.
The issue is still being debated by local councils and planning departments, however protestors were able to postpone a final decision for now. A community pressure group is currently fundraising in order to take the UK government to court in the event that the licence to transfer be awarded. More information on the Cromarty movement can be found on their website here, or their facebook page here.Alan Airey protesting at Nairn beach Photo credit Alan Airey