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January 14, 2020
Galapagos made international headlines in December when a barge carrying 600 gallons of diesel fuel sank in a port on San Cristóbal Island. One person was injured in the accident when a crane collapsed while loading a container holding an electric generator onto the barge.
The environmental authority’s Emergency Operations Committee (COE) immediately activated protocols to contain the environmental impact of the spill, which included setting up spill containment barriers and oil absorbent cloths around the fuel patch, as well as taking steps to recover the diesel.
Ecuadorian Environment Minister Raul Ledesma has since commented, “Not a single species has been affected by the spill in San Cristóbal.” Ledesma said that veterinarians tested several marine iguanas and two sea lions in the area for possible side effects from the spill, of which none were found. Ledesma clarified that the barge was transporting fuel for its own operations. Ecuador’s attorney general’s office is investigating the cause of the accident.
For comparison, the worst human-caused environmental disaster in the Islands took place in 2001 when the MV Jessica, an oil tanker, ran aground off the coast of San Cristóbal and subsequently leaked 175,000 gallons of diesel and fuel oil into the sea. That event was in part the impetus for developing emergency protocols to mitigate the impact of possible future spills, which allowed the latest (albeit much smaller) event to be managed swiftly with limited impact on the environment.
Photo © Reuters