The Gannet F oil leak

 

Advising UK Government on the potential impact of offshore industry activities on marine life is just one of the roles of JNCC’s Marine Advice team. Reviewing applications from the oil, gas, aggregates and marine renewables industries is a day-to-day task for the advisers who also provide advice on minimising impacts of proposed activities on marine life in offshore waters.

 

Another key role for the team is the provision of a 24-hour advisory service for marine pollution incidents – providing information on the significance of the event for marine biodiversity – and this support proved invaluable when oil was discovered leaking from the  Shell Gannet offshore installation last year.

 

JNCC provides advice through the Environment Group, whose formation is initiated by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) when marine pollution incidents require a regional or national response. Other members of the Environment Group may include Marine Scotland or the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) depending on whether the incident is in Scottish or English/Welsh waters, and Natural England, the Countryside Council for Wales or Scottish Natural Heritage if there is the potential for biodiversity impacts within English, Welsh or Scottish territorial waters. All members of the Environment Group collaborate to provide the advice to UK Government.

 

During the Shell Gannet leak JNCC identified that the greatest potential marine biodiversity impact related to seabirds. This risk was initially identified using the JNCC oil vulnerability index for seabirds, which combines seabird density data with vulnerability factors, such as the proportion of time bird species spend in contact with the sea’s surface, and presents a vulnerability grading for the oil industry licence areas on a monthly basis. Reference to the index indicated that the Gannet area and the immediate vicinity was of moderate vulnerability for seabirds during August.

 

As the incident unfolded it became apparent that there was a risk of a further significant oil leak. Consequently, JNCC recommended that calculation of a real time vulnerability index would provide a better understanding of the potential impact on seabirds. JNCC's SPA (Special Protection Area) team, specialising in the identification of areas of importance for seabirds, provided advice on survey techniques that should be used to collect data to calculate a real time vulnerability index. An aerial survey company was commissioned by Shell to survey the area, analyse the data and provide an updated index which could be used to provide more informed advice in the event of further oil leaking.

 

Fortunately there was no further oil leak from Gannet but the partnership work of JNCC with Shell ensured good, current data would have been available to provide the best possible advice.  

 

 

Contact File

 

Finlay Bennett

Senior Offshore Industries Adviser

Tel: +44 (0) 1248 266553

 

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