Elgin North Sea gas leak fish 'untainted'

Analysing Elgin samples Samples from the scene were sent for expert analysis

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Tests on fish from close to the gas leak platform in the North Sea have shown they are "untainted", the Scottish government has said.

A research vessel spent the weekend at sea taking samples near Total's Elgin platform which were then analysed.

Taste tests concluded that "no taint of hydrocarbons" was found in the samples.

Full chemical testing of all environmental samples is continuing, with initial results expected by the end of the week.

The fish samples collected for an expert panel covered cod, haddock, whiting, plaice, lemon sole, herring and mackerel.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "The environmental impact of this gas leak has been minimal so far, however it's important we take precautions and analyse all available data.

"Therefore it's reassuring that sensory testing of the fish samples gathered by the Alba na Mara have found they are untainted by hydrocarbons.

"Full chemical analysis work - including water and sediment samples - is ongoing and will provide further clarification on any impact.

"Marine Scotland Science have the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to carry out this work effectively, including the UK's only specially trained sensory panel.

"We will continue our monitoring activities for the duration of this incident, so we can assess any impact on the marine environment and respond as needed."

'Real effects'

Stan Blackley, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "Proper chemical testing of environmental samples taken near the platform is still ongoing so it is completely premature to underplay the potential damage and problems that may have been caused.

"The real effects of the gas leak may be cumulative and long-term and will not be known for some time.

"Just because a panel of 'fish tasters' couldn't taste any hydrocarbons in some fish caught near the Elgin platform doesn't necessarily mean that hidden and longer-term environmental damage is not being caused to the waters, seabed and wildlife in the area."

Total has said it is working on plans to stop the leak.

The platform was evacuated after gas started leaking on Sunday 25 March.

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