Threat To Marine Environment Grows As Oil Continues To Escape From Fractured Pipe Into Timor Sea
Oil continues to pump into Timor Sea (250km off the West Australian coast) at a rate of around 400 barrels a day, after it was revealed that a third successive attempt to plug the leak has failed.
The damaged pipework sits more that 2.5km under the sea bed and has been spewing oil into the ocean since August 21st , presenting considerable threat to wildlife over a large area.
In what is fast developing into Australias worst ever oil spill, the company responsible for the now unmanned West Atlas rig, PTTEP Australasia, will not now be able to mount a fourth attempt to fix the leak for a number of days.
However, the success of this operation is by no means guaranteed and a spokesperson for PTTEP has not ruled having to change its approach to stemming the flow of escaping oil.
Fishermen in East Timor are already blaming the large spill for not only the deaths of hundreds of fish, but also the subsequent sickness of those people who have consumed the dead fish.
At least 20 different species of whales and dolphins probably use the area, including sperm whales, common dolphins, pygmy blues and humpback whales. A recent whale survey recorded humpback whales south west of the spill area. And another independent survey looking at the impact of the spill sighted dolphins close to the slick.
WDCS has continued to express concern about the giant slick as the entire area is used by animals migrating between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Some populations are known to migrate through this region on the way to South East Asian waters.
Despite the evidence, the Australian Government wants to deny the impacts. “This spill will have lasting effects on one of the world’s largest tropical marine ecosystems and the animals that call this region home. We can’t let the Government turn a blind eye to that fact” said Margi Prideaux, WDCS. More than ever we need help to pressure the Australian Government to prevent this happening again
Please let the Australian Government know that they should be urgently doing something about the spill
The impacts of oil spills
The best known and most graphic effects of an oil spill are typically seen in seabirds. Their feathers become clogged with oil and loose their vitally important insulating abilities. The same thing can happen to furred mammals.Preening birds can also ingest toxic compounds from their plumage. Whales and dolphins use their blubber layer for insulation and so are not affected in this way, but ingestion and inhalation may occur when animals are in close or direct contact with a spill. The large baleen whales can suffer from oiling of their baleen. Ingestion through prey and damage to the food web are also possibilities.
“Crude and other oils are mixtures of a great many organic compounds many of which are toxic, and animals can ingest oil-derived compounds either directly from the water or with their food. Poisonous vapours can also be inhaled and especially as the more volatile components evaporate into the air from freshly spilled oil” said Mark Simmonds, WDCS International Director of Science.“Regrettably, whales and dolphins are unlikely to avoid oils spills and the more extensive the spill, the greater the encounter rate is likely to be. There will also be chronic effects of oil entering food-chains. Much of this is going to happen far away from the human eye and if whales or dolphins are killed or otherwise affected, we are unlikely to be witness to this. All of this further explains the need to keep fossil fuel plants out of important wildlife areas.”
Opportunistic observational research of wild animals has shown that the bottlenose dolphins observed during a fresh spill could detect slick and mousse oils but did not react to lighter sheen oil. Groups hesitated and milled when the encountered slick oil, eventually diving under small patches but continuing through extensive areas.
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