Harbour porpoise MPAs being sacrificed for wind farms

| January 24, 2016

Sunday Herald article in full here.

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Plans to protect endangered porpoises around the Scottish coast have been blocked by the Scottish Government to help clear the way for new offshore wind farms, according to internal government emails seen by the Sunday Herald.

Senior wildlife advisors have privately accused the government’s Marine Scotland directorate of displaying “unwarranted aggression” and being “untruthful” about its agenda. They also warn that Scottish ministers are trying “to bend the law as far as possible” and could end up being fined for breaking European environmental rules.

Marine Scotland has delayed four proposed conservation areas for harbour porpoises by raising objections to the science. But 48 pages of detailed email exchanges reveal that officials were worried about “a significant risk” that a major wind farm planned for the Moray Firth could fail.

Environmental groups have attacked the Scottish Government for allowing the political drive for wind farms to overrule the science of saving wildlife. It is “very disappointing” that this has caused Scotland to fall behind the rest of the UK on protecting harbour porpoises, they say.

In October 2014, the European Commission warned the UK government that it would be taken to court for failing to designate special areas of conservation for harbour porpoises. This was seriously compromising moves to protect the species, the commission said.

In response UK governments began a designation process that ended last week with proposals for five harbour porpoise conservation areas around England, Wales and Northern Ireland. But four other areas planned for Scottish coastal waters were dropped.

One of the areas that was abandoned was in the Moray Firth, around and to the north of Fraserburgh. This is where two huge offshore wind farms backed by the Scottish Government are planned, with over 300 turbines.

Other proposed conservation areas that were shelved were in the Minch between the Isle of Lewis and the coast around Ullapool, and around the islands of Mull, Jura and Islay. A fourth area has been sliced in half, with the section next to Northern Ireland retained but the bit off the southern coast of Galloway expunged.

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