Agen­cies in bid to find Reef oil spill

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - CHRIS MCMA­HON

AN oil spill 800m in di­am­e­ter was re­ported to be threat­en­ing the Great Bar­rier Reef yesterday about 33km north- north­east of Cape Up­start, be­tween Ayr and Bowen.

A fish­er­man re­ported the spill early yesterday morn­ing, with the Townsville coast­guard aware of the sit­u­a­tion about 7am. Marine Safety Queens­land con­firmed yesterday af­ter­noon there was an “oily residue” on the hull of the fish­er­man’s boat.

Townsville Coast­guard spokesman Ted Win­ter­bot­tom said the spill was re­port­edly about 800m in di­am­e­ter.

“It was re­ported to the duty of­fi­cer by a fish­er­man this morn­ing, that’s re­ally all we know at this stage,” Mr Win­ter­bot­tom said yesterday.

State and fed­eral gov­ern­ment agen­cies spent yesterday try­ing to track down the spill, with a Cus­toms air­craft and he­li­copter search­ing from the air be­fore Townsville Wa­ter Po­lice were sent late yesterday to in­ves­ti­gate.

Late last night, Marine Safety Queens­land said “small oily patches about one me­tre in di­am­e­ter” had been found, along with a sheen on the wa­ter. An MSQ spokesman said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would con­tinue to­day.

“An Aus­tralian Mar­itime Safety Au­thor­ity spe­cialised air­craft out of Cairns is be­ing tasked for an early- morn­ing in­spec­tion of the ocean area and also of the is­land and coast­line in the gen­eral ar­eas,” a Mar­itime Safety Queens­land spokesman said.

“Mar­itime Safety Queens­land has oil pol­lu­tion re­sources and staff on standby if re­quired in Townsville and other ports.”

North Queens­land Con­ser­va­tion Coun­cil co- or­di­na­tor Wendy Tub­man said the spill was “ex­tremely alarm­ing”.

“It is a World Her­itage area,” Ms Tub­man said. “It is of great con­cern, par­tic­u­larly be­cause of the port ex­pan­sions and de­vel­op­ment down the coast. This sort of thing is a risk that is only go­ing to in­crease.”

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