Coast Guard Helps Cleanup of Oil
Spill at Galapagos Islands
BY GONZALO SOLANO - Associated Press Writer
PUERTO AYORA, Galapagos Islands -A team of U.S. experts headed Saturday for the
ecologically fragile Galapagos Islands to help clean up an oil spill that
officials said threatened to became "a major environmental disaster."
The tanker Jessica, carrying about;. 243,000 gallons of fuel, ran aground
Tuesday. It began leaking diesel oil Friday into a bay on San Cristobal Island
populated by rate marine species, government officials said.
Authorities blamed navigational error. Ecuadorean officials, saying they lacked
the equipment for handling the spill, requested help Friday. Ten members of the
U.S. Coast Guard's pollution response National Strike Force headed to the
easternmost island Saturday equipped with specialized oil spill equipment such
as high-capacity pumps and inflatable oil containment barges, the Coast Guard
A coordinator from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was
traveling with the team. Fuel was steadily leaking through a fissure in the
tanker , said Ecuador s environmental minister, Rodolfo Rendon. The current was
'pushing the spill south toward one of the largest colonies of sea lions in the
archipelago, he said.
"If this situation continues, we may be faced with a major environmental
disaster ," Rendon said Saturday. The U.S. team's main goal is to drain the oil
from the ship, Rendon said.
The U .S. team's main goal is to drain the oil from the ship, he said.
Crews from the state oil company also are trying to retrieve the oil from the
Jessica. It was not clear how much fuel has spilled so far , but Rendon said
20,000 gallons of fuel had been retrieved.
The Galapagos Islands, 600 miles off the west coast of Ecuador, are famous for
their giant tortoises and rare species of birds and plants. The islands were the
basis for Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
Floating nets and barriers were erected to control the spill, but at least 12
sea lions and several birds. already have been harmed by the fuel, Rendon said.
The spill also was threatening colonies of marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies,
masked boobies and sea gulls, as well as sharks and lobsters, Galapagos National
Park Director Eliecer Cruz said.
source: Daily Sun, 1/21/01, p. A8
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