Changes to the rules for the testing of seafood near Dounreay will reduce the number of crustacea that are caught and disposed of unnecessarily.
The current programme for checking species such as lobster and crab for radioactive contamination results in 10 times more shellfish being caught and destroyed than is necessary for sampling purposes.
Changes announced today by the Food Standards Agency in Scotland will allow the surplus catch to be returned alive to the sea, instead of ending up in landfill.
In 1997, when radioactive particles were detected on the seabed at Dounreay, the then Scottish Office prohibited the harvesting of seafood within a 2km radius of a disused outfall on the seabed under the Food and Environment Protection Act (FEPA) 1985.
A consent was granted to the site operator and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency to continue to collect seafood within the exclusion zone as part of the site environmental monitoring programme
DSRL, the contractor that took over the site clean-up in 2008, needs about 10 crabs and five lobsters each month to meet the needs of its environmental monitoring programme. Most of this is caught in the vicinity of the FEPA zone using creels.
The 1997 Order prohibits any catch from the FEPA zone being returned to the seabed as a precaution, so the surplus shellfish have ended up in landfill after incineration.
None of the laboratory tests carried out on catches since 1997 has found evidence of shellfish affected by the presence of radioactive particles in the sediment.
DSRL wrote to the Food Standards Agency in Scotland which is now responsible for the FEPA restriction, and asked them to allow the surplus catch from this area to be returned alive to the seabed.
“Last year, we had a surplus of 900 crabs and 200 lobsters, all of which went straight to landfill rather than back to the seabed,” explained Doug Graham, head of environment at DSRL.
“We thought this was a waste that caused unnecessary harm, so today’s announcement by the Food Standards Agency is welcome.”