The Scottish and UK governments have been reported to the European Commission for ignoring their environmental advisers and giving the go ahead to the dumping of seawater from ships in one of Scotland’s most precious and historic bays.
Critics fear that allowing oil tankers to discharge their ballast water into Scapa Flow in Orkney could be “catastrophic”. The water brought in from elsewhere will cause pollution and introduce invasive alien species that could wreck wildlife and a multi-million pound fishing industry, they say.
Orkney Islands Council, however, insists that there are sufficient safeguards in place to keep Scapa Flow “pristine”. Oil tankers began emptying their ballast tanks into the bay earlier this month, as they transfer oil between ships.
Previously, tankers weren’t allowed to dump their ballast water in Scapa Flow, but had to do so out at sea. The bay is a 120 square-mile sheltered natural harbour, where the Germans famously scuttled 74 warships in 1919 to avoid them falling into British hands.
Scapa Flow is also linked to the Loch of Stenness, the largest brackish lagoon in the UK. The lagoon is protected under European law as a special area of conservation for its unusual marine life, and is a wintering ground for wildfowl including tufted duck, scaup and goldeneye.