September 18, 2008

Dolphins Amid Oil Rigs: a Four Year Plan for Life in Busy Firth Strategy Aims to Cut Pollution and Preserve Cromarty’s Wildlife


A STRATEGY was launched yesterday to ensure the protection of wildlife, including bottlenose dolphins, in the busy Cromarty Firth.

In the past year there have been between 800 and 900 vessel movements in the 19mile stretch of water, including tankers, ocean liners and giant oil rigs.

But beside this economic activity in and around the firth, there are environmental designations to protect the dolphins and mportant birdlife, including two Sites of Special Scientific Interest .

Cromarty Firth Port Authority (CFPA) prepared an environmental management plan in anticipation of the Scottish Marine Bill and the creation of a new regulatory body, Marine Scotland, which is expected to enforce tighter environmental controls. The four-year plan sets the benchmark for the different users of the firth.

By 2012, the port authority aims to have cut its energy consumption by 5per cent and increased its recycling by 5per cent with provision of storage areas to encourage users to recycle more. It will also work with Highland Council to encourage operators in the firth to reduce air pollution, and it will monitor noise pollution and investigate complaints It will also monitor water quality and investigate all incidents of pollution reported.

At the same time, working with Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, it will ensure the maintenance of a clean firth.

The environmental management plan will cost the port authority about GBP20,000 a year But at the same time the authority will seek to increase its business, particularly in the field of energy - whether oil, gas or renewable.

Speaking at the launch, Ken Gray, the authority's port manager, said: "The objective of this plan is to set out a framework for environmental management dealing with all operations taking place in the firth, and to address the threats and risks associated. As a port authority, we have a statutory duty to follow current environmental legislation, but our aim here is to go beyond that.

"This plan follows good practice, taking into account the activities of the port and their environmental impact. It is a blueprint for all of us who work in the area and use the firth in whatever way."

CFPA chairman Jimmy Gray added: "We live and work in an area which has rightly been recognised for its outstanding natural environment. CFPA takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously. We have a duty to our communities to maintain that environment by adopting best practice and encouraging others to do the same, and our plan sets the guideline for that."

Colin Craig, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency team leader in nearby Dingwall, said: "We support the work CFPA has put into this management plan, and look forward to working alongside them to maintain a sustainable and healthy port."

Peter Wortham, Scottish Natural Heritage East Highland area officer, said: "The firth is an outstanding area in which to see wildlife and we are pleased to see CFPA taking their environmental responsibilities seriously."

Home to roost THE Cromarty Firth provides roosting and feeding grounds for wintering wildfowl and waders which number in excess of 29,000 birds. The firth attracts important populations of Icelandic greylag goose, redshank and bar-tailed godwit .

Smaller numbers of Slavonian grebe, whooper swan, teal, oystercatcher and pink-footed geese occur.

The firth has a range of breeding birds including colonies of herring gull, fulmar and common gull . Of particular importance are the 300 pairs of tern which nest in Alness and Nigg.

Originally published by Newsquest Media Group.

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