Galapagos Oil Spill: Technical Report 16 Feb 2001

from Charles Darwin Foundation
Published on 16 Feb 2001

Update on the latest developments concerning "Jessica" in San Cristobal

Yesterday, February 15th, a small amount of fuel was reported to be leaking from "Jessica" once again. The tanker ran aground, off the coast of San Cristobal, a month ago. The fuel that has recently leaked out, according to Godfrey Merlen, a Galapagos National Park Service specialist "is from the main engine service tanks of the vessel 'Jessica', and the movement of the ocean has possibly caused this tank to crack, allowing the small amount of fuel to escape".

Galapagos National Park experts have placed a barrier around the ship to prevent the fuel from spreading towards the bay of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno in San Cristobal Island. The Charles Darwin Research Station team is ready to resume efforts in the Wildlife Rescue Centers and the Galapagos National Park team has begun further clean up operations. According to Merlen, the amount of fuel leaking from the tanker is approximately 800 gallons of diesel fuel. Today, scientists from the Darwin Station started to monitor the coast and they are prepared to receive any affected animals.

Wildlife Rescue Centers

Establishment of Bird and Sea Lion Rescue Centers in Galapagos

On 16th January 2001 the oil tanker "Jessica" ran aground in Wreck Bay on the island of San Cristobal, Galapagos. Ecological monitoring patrols are currently reporting the animals which have been affected by the fuel spill. National and international experts are treating these animals in rescue centers. On the island of San Cristobal, the rescue center is located at the Naval base. On Santa Cruz it is located at the Charles Darwin Research Station headquarters.

At the moment two groups of specialists are working in the affected areas:

1. The Team trained in rescue of oiled birds is made up of 12 international experts and 2 Ecuadorian scientists from the Charles Darwin Research Station. The Research Station is coordinating their work and they are under the direction of the Galapagos National Park. A warden from the National Park always accompanies the group of experts, while they carry out their monitoring along the impacted areas in search of affected birds. So far, the majority have been pelicans.

Cleaning of animals began on 28th January. The level of contamination of affected birds is evaluated on-site. Only the birds which are most affected are transported to the rescue center, where a general check-up is carried out to evaluate the animal's condition. Some need to be re-hydrated. Once the animal's condition is stable, it is cleaned and stays in captivity, usually for 5 days. Birds are kept until their plumage has recovered its impermeability; they are then put back into their natural environment.

By 27th January 15 pelicans were in the rescue center waiting to be cleaned. As it has been crucial to ensure that the birds are feeding in captivity, fish has been acquired from the local fishing sector of San Cristobal.

The pelicans that are returned to their environment will be marked with rings in order to continue monitoring their recovery, and the rings will indicate that they have been captured and treated.

The Team trained in the rescue of marine mammals is working under the direction of international experts. This group is also carrying out monitoring in the impacted areas, to determine if the sea lion colonies have been affected by the fuel spill and if individuals need to be treated. An official from the Galapagos National Park also accompanies them Service. Statistics show that sea lion pups are most vulnerable to the effects of contamination. As pups cannot be separated from their mothers for more than a few hours, the cleaning is taking place on site. If a very ill sea lion has to be treated, facilities are ready at the Rescue Center. Before being released, the sea lions will be marked with a color code to enable monitoring of their recovery.

You can help us too, by supporting the Friends of the Galapagos. Limitations of supplies and monitoring efforts mean that more animals will have to struggle alone against this man-made disaster. We need more funds so we can work effectively. You have the opportunity to do something practical to help us now by joining Friends of the Galapagos.