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MP highlights oil threat to birds

27 December 07 10:39 GMT

An MP will visit a seabird colony to highlight concerns about ship-to-ship oil transfers in the Forth.

Mark Lazarowicz, Edinburgh North and Leith MP, will visit the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick.

He has introduced a private member's bill at Westminster demanding better regulation of activities on board ships around the coastline of the UK.

There are concerns that spillages during the transfer process will endanger protected bird species.

The Scottish Parliament has already approved new powers which would enable ministers to freeze such plans.

Sensitive sites

The change will allow the government to call in plans which may affect protected sites, including ship-to-ship transfers in the Firth of Forth.

But Mr Lazorowicz said sensitive sites like the Forth's bird sanctuaries needed even greater protection legislated by Westminster.

He said: "The recent controversy surrounding proposed ship-to-ship oil transfers in the Firth of Forth has highlighted the need for more effective regulation of ship-to-ship transfers.

"My bill aims to ensure that the whole marine environment is protected from this practice and that ship-to-ship transfers are carried out where they can be done safely."

'Right place'

The Firth of Forth is home to about 300,000 seabirds, according to the RSPB. Gannets, puffins and guillemots are some of the most popular, and many of the birds return to the same nest each year to mate.

Lloyd Austin, head of conservation policy at RSPB Scotland, said: "The fact that it's threatened by the prospect of allowing ship-to-ship oil transfers shows that the coastline all around the UK is in urgent need of protection.

"This kind of operation is fine if it's in the right place, for example at Scapa Flow in Orkney where the infrastructure exists to carry out such operations safely.

"We need Westminster legislation of this type to protect all sites in the UK, and we hope that this bill also gets the wide cross-party support that it deserves."

The Environmental Protection (Transfers at Sea) Bill is expected to be debated in the New Year.

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