Oil Spill In Atlantic Ocean Puts Endangered Penguins And Islanders At High Risk

Tristan da Cunha is known as “the most remote inhabited island in the world.” Situated in the South Atlantic Ocean, its nearest land neighbor — South Africa — is 1,750 miles away. South America comes in second at a whopping 2,088 miles away.

It is home to roughly 270 residents and the territory is shared with some 200,000 penguins that reside on the nearby Nightingale Island, which is part of the Tristan da Cunha chain.

This chain is also home to almost half of the world’s total number of northern rockhopper penguins.

The harmony these islanders have enjoyed for years has been suddenly disrupted by the outside world. A cargo ship was grounded last week on Nightingale Island as it was traveling from Brazil to Singapore. The vessel was carrying  1,650 tons of crude oil when it ran aground and broke up on the remote island.

According to reports:

Thousands of endangered penguins have been coated with oil after a cargo ship ran aground and broke up on a remote British South Atlantic territory, officials and conservationists said Tuesday. The shipwreck also threatens the lobster fishery that provides a livelihood to one of the world’s most isolated communities.

The Malta-registered MS Olivia was grounded on Nightingale Island in the Tristan da Cunha chain last week. The ship had been traveling from Brazil to Singapore and contained 1,500 tonnes (1,650 tons) of crude oil and a cargo of 60,000 tonnes (66,000 tons) of soya beans.

Tristan da Cunha’s conservation officer, Trevor Glass, said oil was encircling Nightingale Island and called the situation “a disaster. Island administrators said some 20,000 penguins had been coated in oil.

The island administrator said he had temporarily closed the area around Nightingale and nearby Inaccessible Island to fishing.

I feel sorry for these people and the penguins. One would think living in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean that you would be safe.  But, evidently, no one is safe from the environmental destruction of man.

Richard Cuthbert, a research biologist with Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said the wreck was “potentially disastrous for wildlife and the fishery-based economy of these remote islands.

“He said that alongside the threat to penguins and sea life, there was a risk rats from the ship could come ashore and eat the chicks and eggs of native seabirds.

“Nightingale is one of two large islands in the Tristan da Cunha group that are rodent-free,” Cuthbert said. “If rats gain a foothold, their impact would be devastating.

Officials said they hoped to bring another vessel carrying a penguin-cleaning team from Cape Town to the islands. The British government said it was very concerned about the situation, but said it was too early to know what the economic and environmental damage to the islands would be.

Let’s hope that the British Government does not just shrug this off and say everything is ok, like some other governments do when there is an environmental disaster.

Read More: Huffpost Green

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Photo Credit:  man_with_noname

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