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Fuel spill on Chilean coast

Penguins in Peril

On 31 October at 01:00 AM, a cargo vessel ironically named EIDER, registered in Hong Kong, came aground on the rocky shores of Antofagasta City in northern Chile. A large amount of diesel was discharged into the sea, along with heavy mechanical lubricant hydrocarbons.

Around 7 km of coastal shore has been directly impacted by the resulting oil slick. The Chilean authorities have been preventing oil entering small bays known as ‘caletas’, using floating booms.

Working with volunteers of the Wild Fauna Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre of the University of Antofagasta, a number of stricken seabirds and several migratory Franklin Gulls were captured, although access to the birds proved difficult. In addition at least 80 oiled Brown Pelicans, several Gray, Band-tailed and Kelp Gulls, and Red-legged and Neotropic Cormorants have been sighted, but have not been rescued. Peruvian Boobies are regularly feeding within the affected are but none have been recovered to date. Green Turtles Chelonia mydas were among the other significantly affected wildlife. Further casualties are expected.Contingency action undertaken by the Chilean Navy to date has been limited to the use of floating booms and the application of dispersant and degreaser solutions, which while reducing oil at the surface has resulted in spreading it throughout the water column.

This stretch of coast is of global importance for Humboldt Penguins, Peruvian Boobies, Brown Pelicans, various endemic gull and tern species as well as three species of cormorant (Guanay, Neotropic and Red-legged Cormorant).

For further information please contact Carlos Guerra Correa, Director of the Wild Fauna Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre and CREA (Regional Center for Environmental Education, University of Antofagasta, Chile), email: director.crea@uantof.cl

4th July 2014