Galapagos Islands (Ecuador)

Galapagos Oil Spill: Technical Report 02 Mar 2001

Originally published

The area of Vertebrate Ecology and Monitoring, Charles Darwin Research Station, continues to take samples at sensitive sites along the Galapagos coastlines in order to establish the distribution and quantity of the fuel that has arrived on land. 650 sites throughout the Galapagos Islands south of Marchena Island were selected for sampling. Last week all of the selected sites on Floreana Island were covered. The team found that the bunker fuel has affected the northeast corner of Floreana. Several marine iguanas were oiled. A heavily oiled sea lion was found dead, which, according to the investigators appears to have been caused by the effects of the fuel.

The team monitored sites either on foot or by dinghy. They checked along the high tide mark for any signs of oil. Methods include turning over rocks, digging up sand to a depth of one foot, and running hands along mangroves. Wood, feathers, and anything plastic all tend to attract oil, so often tiny specks of oil were found by examining rubbish that had washed up onto the beach. The team members recorded the type of surface (e.g. sand, gravel beach, cliffs, mangroves), the quantity of oil (e.g. sporadic, patchy, continuous), and what type of oil it was (e.g. tar balls, oil, diesel). At the same time they registered all fauna sighted, noting down if it was oiled and to what extent. All data was entered into Global Positioning Systems.

Areas still to be monitored include Española, Santa Cruz, and San Cristobal. Depending on the availability of trained staff, the sampling should be finished in the near future. Once all the sites have been examined, maps of the affected areas will be developed. These affected sites should then be monitored four times a year to check for any changes in number or status of species found there.