John has warned the pod of orcas that enchanted Moray Firth ocean-watchers last week could be put at risk if controversial plans to allow ship-to-ship oil transfers in the Firth are given the go-ahead.
John, who has been campaigning to stop the proposal, pressed the Scottish Government for details of the dangers posed to the orcas by oil transfers. He urged the new Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, to make the Scottish Government’s position clear.
Cromarty Firth Port Authority has applied for a license for the risky ship-to-ship procedure, in which oil is transferred between vessels in the open sea rather than secured in a harbour. The application is presently being considered by the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
The orca pod, known as the Northern Isles community, migrates between Iceland and the Moray Firth each year. It would be vulnerable to any oil spill in the Firth resulting from ship-to-ship transfer operations.
The Scottish Greens have a strong track record in protecting coastal communities from ship-to-ship plans. A three-year campaign by Green MSPs to halt similar plans in the Firth of Forth ended in victory when Forth Ports PLC dropped their proposal in 2008. John Finnie launched the Save Our Dolphins campaign in response to the Moray Firth plan in January this year; his petition at http://bit.ly/SaveOurDolphins has received over 3,700 signatures.
“The sighting of these extraordinary animals is a reminder of how precious the environment of the Moray Firth is, both for its wildlife and for its people.
“Oil transfers are already carried out safely in the relative shelter of Nigg harbour; there’s no need to put our Firth in danger with risky ship-to-ship transfers in the open sea.
“I’m trying to find out whether the Scottish Government understands the threat to the orcas and the whole Firth ecosystem. If it does, I hope new Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham will break the silence that her predecessor inexplicably maintained on the issue, and join the opposition to the proposal.
“The Moray Firth is one of Scotland’s most important marine habitats. As well as orcas and our iconic bottlenose dolphins, it is an important area for seabirds, wading birds, seals and otters. It’s a vital fishery and a centre for the production of shellfish. It’s an excellent location for windsurfing, kayaking and other water sports. All that is in danger if we allow oil transfers to go ahead.
“Greens MSPs have beaten ship-to-ship plans once before, in the Firth of Forth. With your help we can do it again: please sign the petition at bit.ly/SaveOurDolphins.”