OIL from Shell’s Gannet Alpha spill is unlikely to reach the Scottish coast – but environmentalists still fear its impact.
The accident and the way the company has handled it has generated widespread anger among conservation groups, furious at the lack of information in the past week.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust called last night for Shell to “come clean” on the impact the leak was having on whales, dolphins and fish.
A spokesman said: “This is an extremely serious matter and wildlife organisations need information in order to plan what, if anything, can be done to safeguard Scotland’s marine wildlife.
“Once the immediate threat to the environment is removed, Shell must be open about exactly how this spill came about and what measures it is taking to make sure it never happens again.”
Tom Brock, chief executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre, said he was concerned about the spill and requested information from Shell.
He said: “Over the last few months we have been watching amazing pictures of seabirds, including puffins, guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes, live on our remote cameras successfully rearing their chicks.
“We are now very concerned these birds could be at serious risk if they come into contact with the spillage.
“We are well positioned and willing to provide advice, but cannot do this without Shell confirming the full details of the situation.”
Richard Dixon, director of wildlife organisation WWF Scotland, said: “It is clear that Shell are having great difficulty dealing with their leaking pipeline.”
Shell technical director Glen Cayley said the company was keeping a close eye on the impact the oil was having on the environment.
He said: “To date, our observers, who are constantly assessing birdlife in the area, report little bird activity and no visible damage to wildlife. We will continue to monitor the area and inform the RSPB.”
The company also plans to fly RSPB personnel to the site so they can see the impact for themselves.
Simon Boxall, an oceanographer at Southampton University, said the spill amounted to about 10% of the platform’s daily production over the past four to five days.
He assessed that the crude oil would break down “relatively quickly” and the chance of it reaching land was slight.
However, he added: “Any spill is harmful to the environment in some way and, whilst this is not a major incident, it will cause some damage.”