Ship carrying thousands of gallons of diesel sinks near Galapagos Islands – sparking fears of ecological disaster
- The ship sank yesterday near the island of Santa Cruz in Ecuador’s ecologically fragile Galapagos archipelago
- Dispersant and containment barriers have been deployed to control the damage by coast guards at the site
- Ecuador’s state-run oil company confirmed that the doomed ship, called Albatroz, had sunk near Santa Cruz
- The 47 diesel barrels on board the ship have caused a ‘superficial’ slick, said the Environment Ministry
- The Galapagos Islands are famous for their biodiversity, including giant tortoises and hammerhead sharks
A ship carrying 47 diesel barrels sank off the coast of one of Ecuador’s ecologically sensitive Galapagos Islands on Saturday.
The ship, called Albatroz, went down near the island of Santa Cruz, according to the state-run oil company Petroecuador.
The company said a contingency plan had been activated, with containment booms set up around the site of the sinking.
On board the scuba diving vessel were 47 barrels of diesel fuel that left a ‘superficial’ slick, according to the Ecuadorian Environment Ministry.
All four of the crew members escaped the wreckage safely, Petroecuador added.
Images released by the Galapagos National Park’s social media show officials responding to the diesel ship’s sinking
An aerial view of the shipwreck shows the containment buffers used to hem in any potential diesel spillage
A ship carrying diesel sank off the coast of one of Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands on Saturday, near the island of Santa Cruz. Pictured: An endemic Galapagos giant tortoise
According to the Environment Ministry, the boat was carrying around 47 barrels of diesel fuel, leaving a ‘superficial’ slick. Pictured: Authorities deployed to the site of the sunk boat
In a tweet posted by the Galapagos National Park’s official account, a ‘contingency plan’ was outlined including using dispersants and containment booms. Pictured: Dispersant is added into the waters by two men
A containment boom is set up around the site of the sinking to prevent diesel dispersing beyond the zone
Authorities said attempts would be made to bring the sunk boat back to the surface
Sting rays can be seen swimming in the Pacific near the Galapagos Islands, the site of a diesel-carrying shipwreck on Saturday
The damage caused by the sinking of the ship, called Albatroz, is as yet unknown, as well as the quantity of fuel on board at the time and the amount that may have spilled. Pictured: A Galapagos hammerhead shark
The ship sank close to Santa Cruz Island, one of the thirteen major islands that make up the Galapagos archipelago
On Twitter, the Galapagos National Park’s official account said a dispersing agent had been used to ‘limit possible negative impacts on the environment’.
According to the tweet, attempts were being made to drag Albatroz back up to the surface.
The UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, renowned for its giant tortoises, is remarkable for being the only place on Earth that thousands of species call home.
Coastguards pictured on Saturday worked to control the spread of the oil slick
Coastguards were scrambled to the site of the doomed ship, which was carrying 47 barrels of diesel close to the ecologically fragile Galapagos archipelago
An increased marine reserve, equal to around 40,000 squared miles, was announced by Ecuador around the Galapagos Islands in January following an agreement at COP26
The sunk ship, a scuba-diving vessel called Albatroz, will be dragged back up from beneath the water as part of a contingency plan
Absorbent material is placed near the site of the spillage by first responders
An estimated 97 percent of Galapagos reptiles cannot be found anywhere else on Earth
An estimated 80 percent of the archipelago’s land birds are endemic to the archipelago
The diesel ship’s sinking comes just months after Ecuadorian president Guillermo Lasso increased by nearly 40,000 squared miles the protected marine zone around the Galapagos Islands.
Extending the marine reserve around the archipelago was the first step in a plan agreed by Ecuador with Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama at last year’s COP26 in Glasgow to create a submarine corridor through which endangered sea creatures threatened by climate change could migrate safely.
In January, after signing a decree to create the protected marine zone, President Guillermo Lasso said: ‘We are declaring a Marine Reserve, measuring 60,000 kilometres squared, equivalent to an area three times greater than the size of Belize’ around the Galapagos Islands.
The remarkable biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands
An estimated 97 percent of Galapagos reptiles and 80 percent of the archipelago’s land birds cannot be found anywhere else.
Those statistics make the archipelago one of the places on the planet with the highest levels of ‘endemism’ – that is, species found nowhere else on earth.
The islands – located in the Pacific around 600 miles from Ecuador – inspired the British naturalist Charles Darwin, who visited aboard HMS Beagle aged 22, to pen the The Origin of Species, considered the founding document of evolutionary biology.
Because the archipelago is found at a point where major ocean currents come together, it boasts a marine environment that ‘combines the nutrient rich cool waters from the south with warm currents from the north and a deep cold current from the west’, explains Galapagos Conservancy.
As a result, the environment has given rise to unique marine species, such as the world’s only aquatic iguana.
Even species that are present in other places around the world sometimes are permitted to act remarkably at Galapagos – something that is permitted by the unique environment.
For example, tuna, golden rays and hammerhead sharks can be seen close to the shore at Galapagos, despite normally being found lurking at the murky depths in other places.
The Galapagos Islands also famously play host to the world’s most northern-living penguins – with all other species of the waddling bird living in the southern hemisphere.
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