The Seahorse Trust challenge the Secretary of State over drilling in Poole Bay


The Seahorse Trust challenges the Secretary of State’s decision to allow drilling for oil in Poole Bay, Dorset without proper environmental impact assessment of the proposal

The Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy authorised Corallian Energy Limited to drill for oil in Poole Bay, Dorset without undertaking a lawful environmental impact assessment of the proposal and did the same again when Corallian applied for consent to continue drilling beyond the time allowed for in its permit.

When the Secretary of State gave notice of the original proposal for drilling in January 2018, the Seahorse Trust and many others objected on the grounds of the impact of the drilling on Short Snouted Seahorses and Spiny Seahorses that over winter in the area of the proposed oil platform and as such are both susceptible to disturbance.

The Secretary of State then asked Corallian to provide further environmental information on (amongst other things) the impact of the drilling on seahorses, but failed to give notice of this further information to the public, including to the Seahorse Trust, so they were unable to comment.

The Secretary of State took the decision to allow the drilling but failed to notify objectors that this decision had been taken (and had to be challenged within 6 weeks) other than in an obscure publication called the London Gazette.

An Ensco 72 drilling rig arrived in Poole Bay on 2 February and drilling operations commenced on 6 February 2019.

4 dolphins, 1 seal and two seahorses were then washed up dead.

It was then reported by the BBC that the oil drilling had been given a one month extension, despite the fact that consultees such as Natural England had raised concerns about the effect of the effect of drilling in the spring months on sensitive species.

The application for an extension to the drilling was not lawfully consulted upon nor was it done in accordance with the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive.

The Seahorse Trust wants to ensure that any future drilling in UK waters will be subject to proper consultation and scrutiny so that sensitive species such as seahorses are properly protected. The Seahorse Trust is therefore seeking a declaration from the Court that The Offshore Petroleum Production and Pipe-lines (Assessment of Environmental Effects) Regulations 1999 are not fit for purpose and need to be amended.

To challenge the system, we need your help – whatever you can afford to donate! We need to raise £12,000 to ensure that we can fight this case all the way through the courts. To help please click here.

For more information about The Seahorse Trust click here.

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown are a husband and wife team of underwater photographers. Both have degrees in environmental biology from Manchester University, with Caroline also having a masters in animal behaviour. Nick is a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in underwater wildlife photography and he also has a masters in teaching. They are passionate about marine conservation and hope that their images can inspire people to look after the world's seas and oceans. Their Manchester-based company, Frogfish Photography, offers a wide range of services and advice. They offer tuition with their own tailor made course - the Complete Underwater Photography Award. The modules of the course have been written to complement the corresponding chapters in Nick's own book: Underwater Photography Art and Techniques. They also offer equipment sales and underwater photography trips in the UK and abroad. For more information visit

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