Update on Rena Oil Spill

As I write this blog, Dr. Mike Ziccardi is probably just arriving in New Zealand to assist with the wildlife response of this current oil spill.  Once Dr. Ziccardi is “settled in”, I am sure he will fill us in with some of the news from this spill.  In the meantime, however, it has been a challenge for all of us back in Davis to find the most up to date and accurate information on this spill.  After reviewing several sites (including Massey University, National Public Radio, and the Irish Times), I have pieced together what I think is some of the latest information.  I hesitate to recommend a single website for information, but if pressed I would suggest checking the Massey University website (http://www.massey.ac.nz/), since some of the response staff are from that university, and they seem to keep it fairly current.

The latest information that I have gathered is the following (as of Oct. 14, 1400hrs Pacific Coast time):

Approximately 350 tons of oil have spilled into the water, and about 70 containers have fallen off the Rena and are now floating in the water or washed up on shore with debris from the containers scattering across beaches and water. The concern now is that the large crack in the Rena appears to be extensive, and may lead to a complete break of the ship at any moment, further spilling fuel oil and diesel into the water.  The Rena has 220 tons of diesel, and 1,870 tons of fuel oil on board.  There are plans underway to try to pump the oil off the ship before it breaks apart, but this operation would take at least 14 hrs and be very dangerous. Tugs may be used to stabilize the stern of the Rena while oil is removed, but this operation is still being considered at this point.  Several salvage vessels are in the area collecting floating debris from the containers that have fallen overboard. In the meantime, oil has come ashore along several beaches and is expected to enter Tauranga harbor and coat more beaches in the coming days.

As for the wildlife, around 1,000 birds have been collected dead, and 130 have been recovered alive and transferred to the Oiled Wildlife Response Unit in Mount Mauganui. In addition, 5 oiled seals have been recovered, and there has been pre-emptive capture of 5 individuals of the New Zealand Dotterel (Charadrius obscurus). It is estimated that there are only 1,500 individuals of the Dotterel, which is a small shorebird that nests on beaches along some of the impacted shoreline. “Pre-emptive capture” means capture of wildlife before they become oiled. Because of the highly endangered nature of the New Zealand Dotterel, it was decided to try to capture some of these individuals to help prevent them from becoming oiled.

Check back for updates on this spill.


New Zealand Dotterel. Wikipedia Photo.

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