Most northerly population of bottlenose dolphins saved by Highland community

A newborn bottlenose dolphin being lifted up and flipped in the air during a playful exchange captured by David Jefferson at Chanonry Point, in the Moray Firth. Picture: SWNS
A newborn bottlenose dolphin being lifted up and flipped in the air during a playful exchange captured by David Jefferson at Chanonry Point, in the Moray Firth. Picture: SWNS
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The world’s most northerly population of bottlenose dolphins have been saved from potential oil pollution - after a campaign from a remote Highland village.

Scotland’s largest population of bottlenose dolphins, which live in the inner Moray Firth, was threatened by plans to move up to 180,000 tonnes of oil, four times a month, between ships.

Picture: SWNS

Picture: SWNS

Bottlenose dolphins, of which only several hundred live in British waters, are protected, with the Moray Firth being a conservation area under EU law.

The controversial proposals were made by The Port of Cromarty Firth Authority, leading to a three-year campaign which gathered support internationally.

But it announced in a newsletter that “due to higher priority projects the Port will not be pursuing the re-submission of our ship to ship at anchor application”.

Although the population of Cromarty, in the Highlands, has just 700 people, neighbours organised a passionate campaign which included environmentalists, politicians and even crime writer Ian Rankin.

The plans were described by Professor Paul Thompson, a leading expert in marine life at the University of Aberdeen, as “the least appropriate location on the whole coast of Europe to undertake this activity.”

Despite this, the proposal was submitted to the Marine Coastguard Authority, based in England, which Scottish politicians have no power over since it is not devolved.

Kate Forbes, the constituency MSP for the Black Isle, who campaigned against the plans, said: “The most remote communities in Scotland have great weight.

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“This has been a huge sigh of relief because there was a lot of heavy campaigning at the beginning, with a petition endorsed by big names and a debate at the Scottish Parliament which I spoke in.

“From the beginning, the protesters from a tiny little village right on the periphery of the Black Isle, managed to get the support of some of the biggest environmental lobby groups, as well as the First Minister.

“They really went global and this will be a huge relief for them.”

Campaign group Cromarty Rising group, who led the protests and petition, said: “Thanks to all who gave their support in a hard fought campaign.

“It is not an admission of defeat by the Port but the nearest we will ever see in print.

“For whatever reason, it’s great for the communities and environment of the Inner

Moray Firth that this project has finally be dropped and testament to the what people can do when we get together for a common cause.

“In the meantime, Cromarty Rising will remain vigilant to ensure this proposal is never resurrected.”

A spokesman for Scottish Natural Heritage said: “This decision will significantly reduce the risks to the world’s most northerly population of bottlenose dolphins.

“The Moray Firth Special Area of Conservation is extremely important to this species, and a large proportion of the local population use these waters all year.

“Even small oil spills could have a harmful effect.”