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Ritchie, W.: Maritime oil spills - Environmental lessons and experiences with special reference to low-risk coastlines. Journal of Coastal Conservation, 1: 63-76, 1995.


Abstract. Oil spill contingency plans are available for most coastlines but the amount of useful environmental data is variable. The information should be held on a GIS base. High risk areas should be identified and the pre-existing store of environmental knowledge should be commensurately extensive and should be available in considerable spatial detail. Contingency plans still depend on basic lists of coastal types as defined by static, sediment based shoreline characteristics. There is a lack of dynamic, process information. The Braer oil spill of 1993 provides a case study of the application of sound coastal geomorphological and ecological data to impact assessment. Monitoring of the ecological effects of this massive oil spill reinforces other research which indicates that most coastlines can recover naturally from oil spills, and that oil spill clean up techniques may not necessarily benefit rapid shoreline recovery. Although pre-existing environmental information is important, the key decisions must be taken quickly and are frequently judgmental and, therefore, place a premium on gathering appropriate scientific expertise to the site of the spill as soon as possible and with sufficient powers to affect both the oil spill response, to initiate early surveys of damage and to facilitate the initial monitoring programme.

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