Pristine Patagonia Oiled in Major Spill

Photo: Chilean Navy via AP

By Alexandra Patel and Monica Medina

At the southernmost tip of South America, ten thousand gallons of diesel fuel spilled into the sea off the coast of Chile’s Patagonia, in one of the most pristine areas of the world. The oil spill originated at a terminal on Guarello Island, which lies approximately 1,700 miles south of Santiago. The Chilean Navy confirmed the spill on Saturday — it was reported by CAP mining, who said in a statement that the spill is now being contained. The spill had spread into the South Pacific Ocean where the Navy is currently working to stem it. Despite the size of the spill — approximately 40,000 liters (10,600 gallons) —  as of Sunday, some 15,000 liters have been successfully contained.

Why This Matters: It is a terrible tragedy that this pristine and highly sensitive area that is so important ecologically has been damaged by a spill — because there is no such thing as a total clean up. Oil spills will always occur – they are an unavoidable risk when drilling for oil and gas. The only way to ensure their demise is the elimination of natural gas and oil drilling in the first place. And despite knowing of the disastrous environmental effects of oil spills, the Trump administration is making moves to open almost all of America’s coastal waters to offshore oil and gas drilling – giving companies more than a billion acres off the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic coasts. That is a bad decision and hopefully can be reversed before drilling would actually begin in the ocean.

Teeming With Life: Patagonia is a biodiversity hotspot and an area with limited accessibility. The effects of the spill could be especially devastating here considering the pristine nature of the waters, as well as be much harder to clean up.

  • Patagonia is an area roughly the same size as Alaska and his home to some of the largest coastal colonies of marine animals and birds.
  • Oil spills threaten these communities by blocking light needed by ecosystems through the leftover residue on the waters surface, as well as by releasing toxins in the ocean.

As stated by Greenpeace Chile Director Matías Asun “It is an area of great richness of marine mammals, like whales and dolphins, which could see themselves seriously affected in their habitat given that when coming to the surface to breathe they could meet this layer of oil.”

Up Next

Ballast Water Could Be The Culprit Behind Lethal Coral Disease

Ballast Water Could Be The Culprit Behind Lethal Coral Disease

Scientists investigating the highly destructive stony coral disease, which has infected reefs in South Florida and the Caribbean, have zeroed in on a culprit behind the unpredictable spread of the disease: ballast water from big ships.

Continue Reading 447 words
Efforts to Shrink Dead Zone in Gulf of Mexico Must Come From Minnesota and Iowa

Efforts to Shrink Dead Zone in Gulf of Mexico Must Come From Minnesota and Iowa

The “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico in 2019 extended nearly 6000 square miles across — it’s caused by fertilizers and other nutrients coming via the Mississippi River from as far as Minnesota and Iowa and it’s an even bigger threat to ocean biodiversity and Louisiana’s $2 billion seafood industry than oil and gas spills, and it’s even harder to fix.

Why This Matters:  Politicians are gathered in Iowa for this week’s caucuses and they are getting an earful about the devastating floods last year. Iowa farmers are not the only small “farmers” who took a beating from the floods — so did fishermen more than a thousand miles away in Louisiana, and they can scarcely afford the blow.

Continue Reading 536 words
Climate Change and Brexit Upsetting EU Fishers and Markets

Climate Change and Brexit Upsetting EU Fishers and Markets

The United Kingdom is threatening to close its waters to fishers from other countries in Europe once it leaves the European Union next week, and if it does, the impact would be immediate and severe on fishing communities in neighboring nations that are now seeing their local fish stocks decline due to climate change.

Why This Matters:  One of the key issues in the Brexit negotiations that will begin after the U.K. formally leaves the EU on Friday is bound to be fisheries – right now all EU nations have free access to the U.K.’s lucrative fishing grounds.

Continue Reading 562 words