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Friday, 22 March, 2002, 06:25 GMT
Oil waste 'harming cod'
Cod at Waveney Fish Market, Suffolk
Cod breeding patterns are thought to be disrupted
Waste products from offshore oil exploration could be seriously harming cod in the North Sea, scientists in Norway say.

In experimental conditions, chemicals dissolved in waste water from oil platforms stunted the growth of the fish and affected their breeding patterns, the researchers found.

It is not known how seriously cod are being affected in the wild.

But the research will put pressure on oil companies to find other ways of disposing of the waste.
A North Sea oil rig
Oil rigs will consider the study

The oil brought up from reserves beneath the sea bed is mixed in with a large amount of fresh water.

That water is separated off at the surface and pumped back into the sea, but it contains chemical compounds which can seriously disrupt some biological functions.

Scientists at the Norwegian Marine Research Institute in Bergen found that when cod were exposed to this solution, their eggs became smaller and spawning was delayed.

Threat

That meant they were out of synch with the availability of the plankton they need to grow - a sort of ecological mismatch.

The news comes after North Sea states urged cuts in fish catches on Thursday to rescue stocks of species ranging from cod to haddock.

Fishing threatens to wipe out species such as cod, hake, haddock and mackerel in the North Sea.

But fishing levels are subject to strict quotas from the EU.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
See also:

18 Dec 01 | Europe
Europe slashes fishing quotas
18 Dec 01 | Europe
Q&A: Europe's fishing row
17 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
EU fisheries 'face collapse'
29 Oct 01 | Scotland
Cod stocks on EU agenda
23 Oct 01 | Scotland
Oceans summit tackles sea stocks
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