25 years from Braer disaster: environment still at risk


Lessons have not been learned from Braer spill, says WWF Scotland

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5th January 2018 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

A quarter of a century after the country's worst oil spill, Scotland's marine environment remains at risk as the world's addiction to fossil fuels continues, WWF Scotland has said.

On 5 January 1993, the MV Braer tanker ran aground during a storm off Shetland, spilling almost 85,000 tonnes of crude oil and killing hundreds of seabirds and marine mammals.

It could have been much worse – the same weather conditions which caused the wreck also caused a lot of the spilled oil to be swept out to sea.

A massive clean-up operation got underway and moves were made to tighten up rules regarding the transportation of oil.

However, WWF Scotland says that failure to move away from a dependency on oil, combined with the limited cover of emergency vessels, means that the risk of another major pollution incident on Scotland's coast remains a real and present danger.

The environmental group said instead of encouraging new exploration for oil, governments and businesses should be investing in clean, renewable technologies as part of a just transition to a zero carbon economy that will protect us from the worst impacts of climate change. 

Dr Sam Gardner, WWF Scotland’s acting director, said: “25 years on from the Braer disaster the continued pursuit of oil reserves from ever more challenging marine environments means that not only does Scotland's precious marine environment remain at risk but we are also committing ourselves to fuelling dangerous climate change.

“Those destressing images of oil covered birds remain a stark reminder of the vulnerability of our marine environment to pollution. While the fact that 2017 was the second hottest year on record must serve as a klaxon call to wean ourselves off fossil fuels before we are committed to the worst impacts of climate change. 

"The recent commitment by President Macron of France to end oil and gas exploration is a powerful example of the leadership we need to see from hydrocarbon economies like ours.

“And although our economy will continue to rely on oil and gas for some time to come, we must now see a vision and the steps required for a just transition to a zero carbon future. While we make that transition every regulatory effort and safety measure must be put in place to ensure we never see the like of the Braer disaster again.”