Galapagos oil spill update

Subject: Galapagos oil spill update
From: Hugo Phillipps <>
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 08:45:54 +1100
Hi everybody -
For your information, the BirdLife news release below.


Number 1 - 29 JANUARY 2001

8:00 am, Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

On 16 January 2001, the Equadorian tanker Jessica ran aground 800 m off San
Cristobal Island in the Galapagos archipelago, spilling an estimated
240,000 gallons of fuel oil: 160,000 gallons of diesel and 80,000 gallons
of bunker C.

Members of the US National Oceans and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) are working
with the Ecuadorian government and local teams to remove the Jessica which
remains stranded and heavily listing.  Clean-up teams are unable to reach
the ship's damaged storage tanks and it is unclear how much fuel remains on
board.  It is believed that all of diesel and most of the crude (80,000
gal) have already spilled out.

Assessment of Biological Damage
To date wildlife mortality has been limited, though it is difficult to
assess the damage to bird colonies whose feeding grounds may have been
contaminated.  Birds, including North American migrants such as Franklin's
Gull, could be disabled on contact with the toxic diesel fuel and, with the
Galapagos' unique currents, would sink immediately.  Large patches of oil
continue to be discovered throughout the southern part of the archipelago.
The longer term impacts and side effects on the ecosystem are yet to be

Scientists at the Charles Darwin Research Station, who are working with the
Galapagos National Park to monitor the spill and mitigate damage, believe
that it is only a matter of luck that the spill has not caused more damage
(in terms of size, the Jessica spill is less than 1% the size of the Exxon
Valdez).  They see the Jessica spill as an important wake-up call .

The Galapagos archipelago is one of the world's most sensitive and richly
diverse ecosystems.  With an ecotourism industry expected to double over
the next ten years (Galapagos received 65,000 visitors last year), the
spill has raised many concerns about the transport of fuel and hazardous
materials.  The Jessica was supplying deisel (bunker C) fuel for an
ecotourism vessel and was to have entered a deep sea port on the other side
of San Cristobal Island.  It is not known why the Jessica, who did not have
a permit or proper charts, attempted to enter the shallow and challenging
waters off the southern coast of the Island.

A team of scientists from the Canadian Nature Federation (CNF) and Birdlife
International are in Galapagos to help assess the impact of the spill and
ensure that the Canadian and international community learn from this
avoidable accident.  CNF and Birdlife International want governments and
companies to avoid shipping hazardous cargo close to sensitive and
important wildlife hotspots such as the Galapagos Islands.  Otherwise,
similar spills and accidents will inevitably occur at other important sites.

"The international community has been quick to assist in the initial
clean-up efforts, however the real work remains to be done", says Dr Bill
Montevecchi, CNF Board member and seabird expert who is part of the
CNF-Birdlife team in Galapagos.  Dr Montevecchi believes that the long
term-effects of the spill will only be known with monitoring and follow-up.
 "More importantly", he says, "the prevention of such spills in the future
will require a long term commitment to working with the Ecuadorian
government and the local fishing and ecotourism industry".

Additional information on the spill and the bird life at risk can be found
on the Birdlife International website at and the Charles
Darwin Research Station website at 


Hugo Phillipps
Communications Coordinator
Birds Australia
415 Riversdale Road
HAWTHORN EAST 3123, Australia
Tel: (03) 9882 2622, fax: (03) 9882 2677
Email: <>
Web site: <>

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