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Caithness.org News Bulletins - November 2002
HIGHLAND COUNCIL TO HOST TANKER SEMINAR
The Highland Council is to seek European funding to host an international seminar next year to formulate a policy that protects the most vulnerable countries from the threat of a major spillage from oil tankers. The environmental damage caused by the sinking of the tanker, Prestige, off the North Spain coast together with a recent incident off Skye when a nuclear submarine was damaged when it hit the seabed, has prompted Councillor Michael Foxley, Chairman of the Land and Environment Select Committee, and Councillor Bill Fulton, Kyle, a former chairman of the Tankers in the Minch Working Group, to call for a meeting of interested countries, including Spain, France, Norway, Sweden and Canada to agree a European policy.
They believe the Council should work with neighbouring island councils, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environmental Protect Agency to organise a two-day seminar. It would include showing delegates the vulnerability of the coastal waters around the Highlands and Islands.
Meanwhile, Councillor Fulton has written on behalf of the Council to the President of the Xunta of Galicia, Manuel Fraga Iribarne, to express the Council's sympathies about the recent major oil pollution caused by the sinking of the Prestige.
He said: "As I am sure you will be aware, from your time as the Spanish Ambassador to the United Kingdom, the Highlands of Scotland also has many small coastal communities who depend on the sea and on fishing and aquaculture, and we are also under threat from oil tankers and other ships carrying dangerous cargoes.
"In our area, large ships sail through the Minch and the Pentland Firth, both very narrow and dangerous channels. In fact, the ship 'Aegean Sea' which sank in your area in 1992 had passed through the Minch, on the West Coast of the Highlands, 48 hours earlier, demonstrating the fact that we are facing a common danger. Like the people of Galicia, we have had great difficulty in persuading our national Government that more should be done to stop ships carrying dangerous cargoes from using coastal waters where their presence endangers the local economy. The economy of the Highlands also depends heavily on local fishing and the Tourist Industry. Both would be destroyed in the event of a tanker disaster."