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.”

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