Oil Spill_Offshore

A new report has unveiled that in order to look into the short and long-term impact of the oil and gas industry on EU fisheries, fish species and the ecosystem, further exploration needs to be done.

The report titled ‘Impact of Oil and Gas Drilling Accidents on EU Fisheries’, conducted by Dr David Green and Dr Cristina Gomez of the University of Aberdeen’s Institute for Coastal Science and Management (AICSM), noted that lessons learned in the North Sea are applicable to the newer areas of oil and gas exploration.

For the first time, the report provides a review of oil and gas related incidents and accidents in relation to fisheries in EU waters, while highlighting an overall decline in the number of offshore oil and gas accidents since the industry’s birth.

The report also highlights the decline in the impact the accidents have on the environment, as well as fisheries.

Dr Green said: "We found that the oil and gas industry in Europe has been very good at recording, examining and making significant improvements in the wake of oil and gas accidents."

Tanker spills, which were said to be the main cause of oil spills in European waters historically, decreased due to more oil being transported through pipes, and the improvement in tanker safety features and technology, according to the study.

"The report also highlights the decline in the impact the accidents have on the environment, as well as fisheries."

Small accidents have an unknown impact in the long-term, while exceptional incidents such as oil rig blow-outs and tanker spills have the largest short-term impact on the environment and on fisheries.

"After any big incident there is an enquiry and it is very much in the public eye, but after the initial investigations, we found that scientific studies do not always investigate the long-term effects of, for example, spills on the eco-system and on marine life," Green added.

Following the expansion of drilling operations into the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Baltic, along with the recent environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the report urges the EU to liaise closely with involved non-EU states.

The collaboration is aimed at ensuring that the countries also adopt similar stringent health and safety rules, response and compensation legislation as those of the recent EU Directive 2013/30 from July 2013.

Image: University academics claim that long-term effects of oil spills must be explored further. Photo: courtesy of the University of Aberdeen.