MORAY FISHERMEN HAVE joined the growing number of people expressing their concerns over ship-to-ship oil transfers being permitted on the Moray Firth.
The Cromarty Firth Port Authority are seeking permission to carry out the transfers while they are anchored on an area of the Moray Firth.
That, however, has sparked protest from environmental campaigners all along the coastline, fearful that even minimal spills could have a catastrophic effect on local wildlife – in particular the resident dolphin and whale population.
Now fishing crews based in Moray harbours have expressed their reservations over the plans, saying that any spillages would be on Moray’s beaches “in no time”.
“A potential spill would have devastating consequences on Moray – that oil would be on the beaches here in no time,” the chairman of the Burghead and Hopeman branch of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association said.
Hamish McPherson added: “It would have an affect from Nairn to Lossiemouth before anybody could do anything to stop it, our concern is not mainly for the fishing industry but for the impact on mammals and wildlife along the seafront.
“Anything that damages the coastline will have a knock-on effect on Moray’s tourist trade – anybody who is proud of its scenery and beaches will be very worried about this.”
While the Port Authority have been trying to downplay concerns over a potential spillage from their plans and say they are happy to discuss those with interested parties, there are fears that the Scottish Government are ready to back the move.
So far neither the SNP at Holyrood nor local SNP politicians in Moray have expressed a firm view on the proposals, sparking fears that they are in favour of the expansion of ship to ship transfers.
Last week Moray MSP Richard Lochhead would only encourage those with views to take part in the consultation over the plans, which closes next week.
Mr Lochhead said: “Given the importance of the Moray Firth to my constituents that, in turn, could be affected by activity in the Cromarty Firth, I urge everyone with a view on the ship-to-ship transfers proposal to submit their views to the consultation.”