Oil giant and scientists get together to tell a fishy tale
THE habits and habitat of fish and crustaceans living in the waters of the Atlantic frontier west of Shetland have been captured on film for the first time, in a ground-breaking collaboration between marine scientists and Britain’s oil and gas industry.
The footage includes dramatic pictures of a monkfish feasting on a cod supper and squat lobsters catching and eating krill.
For the past two years, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), used to carry out subsea operations for oil companies, have been harnessed to give marine researchers insights into the flora and fauna in the area.
The SERPENT project (scientific and environmental ROV partnership using existing industrial technology) is a collaboration involving the Deep Seas Group at the Southampton Oceanography Centre, one of the world’s largest marine research institutes, the oil giant BP, the drilling contractor Transcocean, and the underwater contractor, Subsea 7.
The results of the project were hailed yesterday, as it was revealed that some of the footage will feature in a BBC documentary series, Planet Earth, due to be screened in 2006.
Dr Ian Hudson, the manager of the project, said that video footage and digital stills taken beneath the drilling rigs operating in BP’s Schiehallion and Foinaven fields had resulted in the discovery of aspects of marine life which had never been seen before.
He said: "These previously unobserved behaviours include dramatic footage of a monkfish hunting and attacking a cod; a squat lobster, previously thought to be a mud-feeder, catching krill; and a sea cucumber feeding in situ.
"Several scientific papers have been published as a result.
"The project is producing results that are making the scientific world sit up and take notice. It has only been made possible through the industry support that we have had for this project."
The scientists now plan to show the results of their two years of research to oil industry leaders at a forum in Aberdeen on 2 March.
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