The naturally beautiful coasts and seas surrounding Shetland support a rich and diverse wildlife, which deserves to be preserved. This was officially recognised in 2005 after Sullom Voe’s special geographical and biological features – which remain unspoiled due to more than forty years of high quality marine environmental management – led to its designation as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) by the European Commission. Today it receives legislative protection under the European Commission Habitats Directive.
The Sullom Voe Terminal is one of the biggest and most complex of its kind in Europe, with a high operational turnover. As a result, there is the potential for large and irreparable risks (e.g. one of the biggest concerns regarding work that takes place at Sullom Voe is the effect of effluent discharge from the terminal and its effects) to the surrounding environment.
SOTEAG’s Monitoring Committee plays a key role in monitoring these risks and therefore maintains the health of wildlife in Sullom Voe. The Committee designs and manages a series of extensive environmental monitoring programmes that are carried out by scientific institutions and consultancies from across the UK. The programme is designed to detect and measure both chronic and acute changes in the marine and coastal environment.
Monitoring of Sullom Voe began in 1974, one year before work on the terminal began. A suite of baseline ecological monitoring was commissioned, building the foundation of the SOTEAG existing monitoring programme.
Monitoring provides an ongoing “health check” at Sullom Voe by evaluating the amount and significance of change and advising The Sullom Voe Association Ltd. (SVA) whether remedial action is required.
SOTEAG’s current monitoring programmes include:
- Chemical and macrobenthic monitoring (biennial)
- Intertidal rocky shore (annual) and dog whelk monitoring (biennial)
- Ornithological monitoring (full-time and annual)
Nature Scot (previously Scottish Natural Heritage) also periodically works with SOTEAG to carry out further monitoring that is specific to SAC requirements.
The Sullom Voe Terminal also carries out statutory monitoring of the effluent diffuser in Sullom. The Terminal shares this information freely with SOTEAG.
These monitoring programmes provide ongoing, independent assurance to the people of Shetland that the environmental impact of the terminal continues to be monitored. It provides an unambiguous, independent check of the marine and coastal environment.
Not only does it serve a great purpose in ensuring minimal damage to local wildlife, but the data is also a huge source of information for other scientific research.
All monitoring reports are evaluated by the Monitoring Committee’s scientific experts and reviewed extensively before being presented to the Board of Directors of SVA and issued to reference libraries throughout the UK.