July 22, 2014   •  
Whale and Dolphin Conservation
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WDCS Condemns Government Decision To Allow Seismic Surveys In Moray Firth Protected Area

WDCS set to challenge government decision at the highest possible level

bottlenose dolphinAs the US starts to count the massive conservation costs of the BP oil slick disaster, the likely agreement by the UK government to allow two companies to begin seismic surveys in preparation for future oil and gas development in the Moray Firth, Scotland, has been condemned by WDCS. Such a decision would be based on heavily flawed environmental assessments, and one that fails to take into consideration the negative long term behavioral impacts on the dolphin population that resides in what is supposed to be a special area of conservation (SAC).   

The seismic surveys, which will create high levels of noise under the water for a number of weeks, have been approved pending a four week restricted consultation period. Although they looked set to begin on 1st September, we are still waiting to hear whether the UK government will give the surveys the go ahead. The longer the decision takes, the less likely it is that the surveys will happen this year, as the rough wintry weather reduces the vessels ability to work.

One of the areas outlined encroaches within the boundary of the special area of conservation, which was set up under European legislation to offer protection to what is one of just two resident, and internationally important, populations of bottlenose dolphins in the UK.

"WDCS would be very disappointed by any decision to give the go-ahead for the seismic surveying in the protected area as it sets a very bad precedent and potentially has very serious implications for this special dolphin population in the moray firth", says Sarah Dolman, WDCS head of policy in Scotland." Seismic surveys cause high levels of noise under the water which can disrupt the dolphins who use sonar to find food and communicate with each other. The government also has a responsibility to consider the unknown, but longer term behavioural impacts on this small population, which already faces the ongoing and cumulative effects of other threats such as; multiple harbour developments, increasing vessel traffic and noise from future pile driving for hundreds of wind turbines and oil and gas development.

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