April 13, 2023

Revealed: Oil and gas companies are wreaking havoc on the UK’s seas

Our oceans are at a breaking point, and the UK’s oil and gas industry is wreaking havoc on our precious marine life. As the climate and biodiversity threats reach critical points and our government continues to push for new oil and gas developments in direct contradiction to the shift towards net zero, it's time to look at the ugly truth beneath the surface.

In Deep Water, a groundbreaking report by Oceana and Uplift, reveals the shocking extent of the damage to our seas caused by our dependence on fossil fuels — highlighting the urgent case for halting new offshore oil and gas extraction in UK waters.

Marine life is being threatened by direct pollution from production, including oil spills, deafening noise levels, and the release of microplastics and toxic chemicals – with marine conservation experts calling the impacts ‘devastating’.

Here are the report’s key findings exposing the alarming consequences of oil and gas production in our seas

Oil and gas fields are destroying biodiverse habitats.

Oil and gas fields are destroying biodiverse habitats, such as deep sponge communities and cold water corals, which are vital for nutrient cycling and food webs. Noise pollution from oil and gas production has severe impacts on marine life, causing hearing loss in bottlenose dolphins, disrupted migration and feeding patterns in whales, tissue and organ damage in giant squid, and permanent defects in fish larvae. 

Additionally, the report uncovers how protected areas face serious threats from new oil and gas developments. Of the nearly 900 locations offered for new oil & gas licenses, a staggering 352 overlap with designated Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) – which throws into question the very meaning of those areas.

Oil & gas production is reduce our seas' ability to act as a carbon store

The impacts of continued oil and gas production reduce our seas' ability to act as a carbon store, both directly by degrading the marine environment and from increasing emissions. This means that climate impacts from the burning of fossil fuels are exacerbated by our seas’ limited ability to absorb excess carbon dioxide.

How does this relate to Equinor’s Rosebank oil field?

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) across the UK face imminent threats from new oil and gas developments. Undeveloped oil fields such as Rosebank and Cambo would see pipelines and infrastructure cut through the protected Faroe-Shetland Sponge Belt Nature Conservation MPA, causing habitat loss, disturbance, and pollution. This area is home to diverse sponge aggregations, long-finned pilot whales, Atlantic white-sided dolphins, and centuries-old ocean quahogs. 

A significant oil spill from Rosebank could risk serious impact to these species in at least 16 UK Marine Protected Areas - a major blowout could reach not just the shores around Scotland and Norway but as far as the coasts of Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands.

What do we do?

We cannot allow these precious ecosystems to be destroyed. The conflict between protecting marine biodiversity and expanding oil and gas extraction is completely unacceptable — we must demand UK leadership on ocean protection to begin at home. Healthy seas and marine ecosystems are crucial to support fisheries, reduce coastal erosion, protect water quality, and regulate our local climate, as well as provide a sanctuary for the rich variety of animals and plants that call the UK's seas home.

Rosebank is a disaster for the climate and the ocean. Over the next few months, we’re going to work with groups across the UK to stop this project and all new oil fields.

Now is the time to add your voice and demand your MP do all they can to #StopRosebank.