§ Mr. Greg Knight
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what studies the North sea task force is undertaking to evaluate the impact of pollutants on marine mammals and seabirds; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mrs. Virginia Bottomley
The role of the North sea task force is principally to co-ordinate and assess the marine environmental research and monitoring carried out by member states and to identify gaps in knowledge. It is for member states to give effect to task force priorities and objectives and in the United Kingdom, this falls to the research programmes of relevant Departments, and other agencies such as the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Nature Conservancy Council (NCC) and universities. In the case of marine mammals, studies are currently under way sponsored by the Department of the Environment, with assistance from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, on the impact of contaminants on seals. Similar work on cetaceans is under consideration and studies of contaminant effects on sea birds are carried out by NERC and sponsored by NCC.