Oil licences 'threaten sea birds'
Rathlin Island could be in danger of suffering oil spills if permission for drilling is granted, the RSPB has claimed.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change is considering granting exploration licences allowing companies to look for oil and gas off the coast of the UK.
Rathlin has a world-renowned collection of wild sea birds amid some of the most dramatic seascape in the country.
Claire Ferry, senior conservation officer at the RSPB, said: "These risks are real and untenable. We cannot stand by and allow demand for fossil fuels to increase the pressure on our already threatened coastal wildlife and those communities who rely on it.
"Instead of investing in new oil and gas infrastructure we should be doing the right thing and investing in renewable energy and green technology such as electric cars."
This week sees the close of the public consultation on the 26th oil and gas licensing round, overseen by the Department. The RSPB has responded by highlighting key wildlife sites close to the areas under consideration.
A spokeswoman for Oil and Gas UK said there is rigorous and comprehensive consideration of the potential environmental impacts of oil and gas activity, which begins well before the licensing process begins.
This ensures that all stakeholders' opinions have been taken into account before any activity, whether seismic or drilling, is considered.
Oil & Gas UK's environmental issues director Mick Borwell said: "DECC is currently considering responses to its public consultation on an appropriate assessment (AA) for the Rathlin area.
"This AA is a more detailed version of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) that must be submitted and approved before any oil and gas activity occurs."