Sound bites, science and the Brent Spar: Environmental considerations relevant to the deep-sea disposal option

John D Gage, John D M Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

One of the happier consequences of Greenpeace's high profile campaign in stopping the sinking of the Brent Spar in the North Atlantic off north-western Scotland has been a better awareness of the deep ocean. At the start of the campaign, when the redundant structure was occupied by Greenpeace activists, there was ignorance in the media and amongst political commentators just where in the sea Shell UK had obtained permission to sink the structure. It was well into the campaign that press statements and Greenpeace sound bites stopped confusing the North Sea with the North Atlantic Ocean. The Greenpeace campaign focused public and scientific attention on the environmental and ecological issues related to deep-sea dumping. Even then, in the face of all the emotion generated by Greenpeace, many scientists were wiping to give Shell the benefit of the doubt in spite of a lack of hard information. It was largely as a reaction to this background that we, with deep-sea biologist colleagues at the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences at Wormley, wrote letters to British newspapers pointing out that on the basis of what we knew of deep-sea ecology, a one-off deep-sea disposal of Brent Spar might not be the environmental catastrophe suggested by Greenpeace. An editorial in Nature (29 June 1995), immediately after the sinking was called off, suggested the change in plan was irrational and that it is to shallow seas that activist and public concern should be directed rather than the deep ocean. Other scientific comment accepted that (even if the case for deep-sea disposal might have been finely balanced with regard to other options) the implications regarding disposal of other platforms could nor be ignored. However, Shell have said that the Brent Spar is unique in requiring this form of disposal and that most offshore installations will be totally removed and scrapped onshore. Copies of the Brent Spar abandonment best practicable environmental option and impact hypothesis reports were sent to us by Shell in duly, after the sinking was called off, as well as by Greenpeace, who wrote individually to a broad section of marine scientists. This allowed us to see the detailed scientific assessment leading to the choice of the deep-sea disposal option.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)772-779
Number of pages8
JournalMAR POLLUT BULL
Volume30
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1995

Keywords

  • Environmental Sciences
  • DIFFERENT TRAWLS
  • NORTHEASTERN ATLANTIC
  • SPECIES RICHNESS
  • FISH ASSEMBLAGE STRUCTURE
  • BENTHOPELAGIC FISH
  • Marine & Freshwater Biology
  • DEMERSAL FISH
  • BENTHIC BOUNDARY-LAYER
  • HEBBLE SITE
  • ROCKALL TROUGH
  • EASTERN NORTH-ATLANTIC

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