Saturday, August 22, 2009

Diesel fuel spill may harm penguins

Diesel fuel spill may harm penguins

August 21st, 2009 by Martin Fellowes

Last week a cruise ship sank in Antarctica and in its wake it left a five kilometre long diesel slick that is feared may harm penguins. The 100 holidaymakers and 54 staff were all successfully rescued but the 185,000 litres of diesel and 1,200 litres of gas oil have continued to leak into the sea and the stain now goes 1,500 metres deep. Wildlife experts from Argentina and Chile are now concerned that the spillage may affect more than 2,000 penguins that travel to Ardley Island to mate every year during August and pass through the region where the spill is.

The impact of tourism on the delicate region of Antarctica has so far been denied by local governments but this latest incident will be hard to go unnoticed. The fuel is considered to be what is known as light fuel, meaning that its impact is less severe than heavier fuels and it is now believed that the spillage is travelling out to the open sea making it disperse quicker.

However, environmentalists in the area are not happy with the slow response from the Argentinean government to clear up the spillage. “This is a wakeup call for tourism activity. We should not have a fuel stain floating in Antarctica, so now we’ll work in order to limit the tourist flow to the region,” said the National Environment Secretary, Romina Picolotti.

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