Oil and Gas
Oil and gas exploration and development can generate intense noise pollution and habitat degradation over long time periods spanning many decades. Such activities should be unacceptable within an area so important to such a vulnerable dolphin population and especially an area which the government has made a safe-haven for them.
The lifetime of an oil and gas platform is measured, not in years, but in decades. In that time oil and gas production can affect the dolphins in a whole range of ways.
Dolphins are highly sensitive to sound. The introduction of loud noise into their environment can impact their ability to navigate, find food and communicate with each other. It can cause them to flee from areas important to their survival and may harm or in extreme cases even kill.
Oil and gas deposits are found through seismic surveys which use air guns to send bursts of intense sound through the water in all directions. Later, noisy drilling and production commence including the transportation of supply vessels and pipelines. At the end of a production facility’s life, decommissioning may involve removing structures from the seabed using explosives.
There are already oil and gas platforms in the outer Moray Firth, adjacent to the Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Whilst no production has occurred within the SAC, considerable boat traffic associated with the industry does and oil pipelines and an oil terminal lie within the SAC. There is a small, but ever present, risk of an oil spill.
The greatest risk comes from future exploration and the production of new sites in areas important to the dolphins. Blocks of seabed within the dolphins’ habitat have been included in recent oil and gas licensing rounds.
"We must be satisfied that there will be no adverse effect on the integrity of the special area of conservation in the Moray Firth and its local bottlenose dolphin population." Richard Lochhead MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment.