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EDITIONS
 Sunday, 5 January, 2003, 03:41 GMT
Coastline call on spill anniversary
Braer tanker
Most of the oil from the Braer was swept out to sea
A call for more legal protection of Britain's vulnerable coastline from oil spills has been issued by environmentalists to mark the 10th anniversary of the Braer tanker disaster.

The ship ran aground off the coast of the Shetland Isles on 5 January 1993, spilling nearly 85,000 tonnes of crude oil into the North Sea that - thanks to the weather - caused widespread but not catastrophic damage.

In 1993 the Shetland Islands got off lightly from the Braer spill... but we can't rely on fate alone to get us off the hook next time

Richard Dixon
WWF Scotland
The demand for action was also being made as France's coastline came under threat from oil that has started washing ashore from the Prestige tanker, which sank off Spain in November.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), more coastline that is home to wildlife needs to be designated Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAs) from which international shipping is banned.

Pollution tally

WWF Scotland's head of policy Richard Dixon said lessons had still not been learnt from the Braer sinking.

"Ten years on we are still failing to protect our marine environment from toxic effects of spilt oil," he said.

Wildlife
20,000 tonnes of oil escaped from the Prestige
He accused consecutive governments of largely ignoring recommendations made by the Lord Donaldson Inquiry set up after the Braer disaster.

Mr Dixon said ministers had failed to set up enough of the specially protected coastal areas.

He claimed that last year there were almost 700 accidental or deliberate marine pollution spills around the UK.

"In 1993 the Shetland Islands got off lightly from the Braer spill, with most of the oil being swept out to sea - but we can't rely on fate alone to get us off the hook next time", he warned.

Damage 'incalculable'

He said tankers passing through the Minch on the west coast of Scotland came within a mile of one of the most "pristine areas of natural beauty in Western Europe".

"If a spill was to affect areas such as this one it would have incalculable consequences for local wildlife as well as the livelihoods of remote communities."

He said Scotland could face a similar situation to France's current crisis, where high tides have swept oil onto the south-western coast.

By Saturday a major slick was reported about 100 km offshore.

The Liberian-registered Prestige broke in two before it sank two months ago and so far 20,000 tonnes of its cargo has leaked into the sea.

Birds killed

When the Braer ran aground at Garth's Ness a decade ago, fisheries and salmon farms were seriously damaged with oil concentrations up to 20,000 times higher than normal, according to the WWF.

Fishing was suspended for several weeks, while shellfish, finfish and marine mammals were also badly affected.

Estimates suggest pollution from the oil spill may have killed 32,000 birds.

Alison Champion, WWF's marine policy expert, said it was frustrating that more than a decade after it was possible to set up PSSAs, only five had been designated.

"It is sad that it takes incidents like the Prestige for governments to take action," she told BBC News.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Gillian Ni Cheallaigh
"The WWF says we can't rely on fate alone to get us off the hook next time"
See also:

04 Jan 03 | Europe
15 Apr 01 | Scotland
23 Mar 99 | Science/Nature
12 Jan 99 | Science/Nature
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