Thursday, March 12, 2009

Oil Spill on the Australian Coast

There has been another oil spill, this time near Moreton Island on Australia's eastern coast. There is, of course, a wildlife refuge close enough to be affected. Like all Australian habitats, it is rich in unique species. According to news reports, 31 tanks containing ammonium nitrate broke loose from the Pacific Adventure during a cyclone, and one of the tanks damaged the ship's hull sufficiently to cause an oil leak. How much oil leaked varies in news reports between 20 and 30 tonnes.

At least three oil-coated pelicans will be evacuated to Brisbane from Moreton Island for emergency medical treatment by the Environmental Protection Agency today, with dozens more casualties expected.

Trevor Hassard, of the Tangalooma Dolphin Education Centre, said the slick had covered the northern tip of Moreton Island, from Blue Lagoon to Yellow Cape, and had stretched as far south as Eagers Creek, in the Moreton Bay National Park.

The area is home to a mass bird rookery, as well as diverse fish and turtle populations.

"It just makes you want to cry," Mr Hassard, who is assisting with the clean up, told this afternoon....

"We've had three pelicans come in already and we've tried to clean them but the EPA is going to evacuate them because they need chemical treatment to stop them ingesting any of the oil.

"It is really sad what is happening here ...and the reality is, it is probably going to get worse."

Mr Hassard said birds on the island, including sandpipers, turns, seagulls and curlews, would freeze to death because the oil nullified the insulating effect of their feathers.
Apparently the ammonium nitrate containers could work additional mischief if any of them started to leak, as the chemical fertilizer could cause an algae bloom.