LAST year’s oil spill in Poole Harbour is believed to have cost businesses £570k, a new report has claimed. 

Businesses operating in and around the harbour as a source of income are estimated to have resulted in a net loss of £570,584 of gross value added (GVA). 

The report, published yesterday, March 19, and written by the consultant Hatch, said that in the overall Dorset economy the loss is “considered minimal”. 

But it recognises the impact would have “disproportionately fallen on independent and SME [small and medium-sized enterprises] firms" – particularly those within the aquaculture and fishing sectors. 

Bournemouth Echo: Clean upClean up (Image: PA/Ben Birchall)

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It said: “Whilst not quantifiable, the wider impacts to the economy regarding perceptions to investors and attractiveness as a place to do business has been considered. 

“There is limited direct evidence to establish a firm conclusion and considering the short-term nature of restrictions the assessment concluded negligible. 

“That said, it has been noted that the incident and risk of future incidents could exacerbate any perception issues and the incident could be attributed to any future decline or negative impacts on the business and visitor economy.” 

Fishermen were told not to harvest clams, mussels and oysters from the seabed in the harbour by officials in the days after the spill. 

The trade is worth more than £1million a year to the coastal community and, as reported last April, fishermen feared the fallout from the leak was a “total and utter disaster” for them. 

There are around 100 active fishermen based in the harbour with 76 commercial fishing vessels operating within the harbour’s boundaries. 

Meanwhile, the direct impact on visitors’ spend around the harbour is a loss of £254,921, the report said, with the rest of the £570k making up aquaculture and fishing. 

Approximately 85 per cent ‘production fluid’ and 15 per cent crude oil was spilled from 200 barrels in the harbour from oil firm Perenco’s Wytch Farm in Ower Bay on March 26, 2023. 

Analysis has confirmed the remediation activity has been successful and there is no longer contamination in the southern creek area of Ower Bay that presents a risk to the wider harbour area. 

The report found the impact on birds “appeared to have occurred but were limited to a few individuals”, saying six were formally reported to have been seen oily. 

But two days after the spill, the RSPB said it received reports at least 15 birds were contaminated. 

Meanwhile seagrass, a sensitive and protected habitat, had “no immediate evidence” of any oil pollution from surveys done on the bed using an underwater camera. 

The report looking into the monitoring of the incident and outcomes said there has been “limited impact” on the wider harbour area. 

“The key impacts have been on the activity in and around Poole Harbour in the first two weeks after the incident when fishing and shellfish activities were restricted,” the report said. 

Examinations will still be carried out in the harbour until next year.