There are certain unchallengeable, yet contradictory, orthodoxies with regard to the marine environment For instance, that little or nothing must be dumped. Yet ships sink and become wrecks, which -if UNESCO has its way -will become the property of "humankind" when they are a hundred years old (just as they are beginning to deteriorate significantly and, if they are modern and harmful, may be leaching toxicants) Or alternatively, what is man-made is alien and inherently damaging and what is natural is good - except when it is a hydrocarbon -and then any spill or leak is treated as if it were manufactured, even if it is crude Even without dogma to cloud the issue, the effect of foreign materials in the marine environment is complex to quantify, because of all the various influences, like current, salinity and temperature, to say nothing of the "cocktail" effect This problem is exacerbated as scientific studies are frequently incomparable because different parameters have been chosen. In order to achieve a more rational approach to man's detritus on the seafloor, and to establish what may remain or be placed there and what must be contained or removed, this paper seeks to establish a quantifiable analytical procedure The aim is that material -be it steel, chemicals from munitions, hazardous or noxious cargoes, or radioactive nuclides - may be assessed for the damage it does, ranked and treated accordingly This is considered possible through a combination of the improvement of onsite monitoring, and the exposure of a small, well-documented and representative group of marine organisms to known doses of hazardous and noxious substances under laboratory conditions, to monitor changes at a genetic level over several life cycles that may affect fecundity and eventually lead to death


Current wisdom forbids the dumping of a "cleaned" Brent Spar in deep water, whilst subsequently lobbying for it to be sliced up and sited In an environmentally sensitive tidal zone of a Norwegian Fjord at the cost of £70 million (two thirds of the cost paid by the British taxpayer)

As far back as 1990, our company was asked to give evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee on Energy regarding the decommissioning of oil and gas installations Having surveyed or worked over seventy wrecks around the coast of Scotland, in areas as diverse as Shetland to the Sound of Mull, Scapa Flow to Rattray Head, we had formed our views from onsite observation over prolonged periods, In a wide range of water depths down to 130 metres On all these wrecks there had been a considerable number of swimming fish, most notably saithe, permitting us to concur with Dr Gordon Picken of Aberdeen University Marine Studies "that offshore installations, like wrecks, are de facto artificial reefs" (Picken, 1990) Our experience supported his findings that wrecks, like installation, sustain a far higher population of marine life than their surrounding areas In addition, our cargo recovery work (during which we excavated hundreds of tonnes of steel and all sorts of cargo)

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