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Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland

Research Projects

Sullom Voe

Picture credit – Sullom Voe Oil Terminal

There have been numerous long standing interests by different entities in Sullom Voe since the mid-1970’s when annual statutory monitoring surveys started around the Shetland Oil Terminal’s treated ballast water outfall, just off Calback Ness point. Staff from Heriot-Watt University initiated the statutory monitoring which is a separate monitoring programme to that of SOTEAG ( set up around the same time. SOTEAG monitoring covers many sublittoral, intertidal and terrestrial studies around the whole length of the Voe. The statutory programme (a requirement for the Oil Terminal operators – BP) concentrates on the benthic sediments in the outer Sullom Voe and the Orka Voe areas and the Modiolus horse-mussel bed on which the outfall diffuser pipeline lies (as it happens, all within the designated boundary of the later-established Sullom Voe SAC). The Statutory monitoring continues annually but at a lesser intensity than in the early years. In 1999, through a NERC Small Research Grant, there was a more detailed study of the Calback Ness horse-mussel bed to investigate population analysis, densities, growth rates and associated fauna and flora. In 2004 Heriot-Watt University researchers undertook SNH commissioned biotope mapping and site condition monitoring surveys of Sullom Voe (proposed SAC at that time), and have more recently, also surveyed areas in northern Shetland on other biogenic reefs related to potential MPA sites. In addition in 2011 the NAFC Marine Centre mapped biogenic reefs across Shetland using a multibeam system to enable a series of 22 voluntary closed areas to dredge shellfish fisheries gain a statutory basis through the Shetland Regulating Order. This information has also been incorporated into the Shetland Islands’ Marine Spatial Plan. A substantial body of historical information has now been generated (35 years’ worth) which could be reanalysed using an integrated approach. With a large industrial complex (Sullom Voe Oil Terminal) and much maritime activity (tanker traffic, pipeline laying, coastal fishing) taking place within a marine SAC, there are numerous bodies interested in better understanding the dynamics of this area’s marine environment, including: oil, engineering and fishing industries; Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation (SSMO), Shetland Islands’ Marine Spatial Plan (SMSP), Shetland Islands Council; SEPA, SNH, MSS.

A DPMS workshop was held to bring together the academic expertise and stakeholders involved in this area, to discuss research priorities and how to target appropriate funding to answer these.

Download draft outcomes report

Enquiries should be directed to Prof Hamish Mair

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