Calls grow for rogue ships to avoid Reef
OIL patches washed up on North Queensland beaches are being painstakingly collected as authorities believe the worst environmental impacts of the spill are over.
But conservationists say the spill, which was estimated to be 800m in diameter, has been “downplayed” and more needs to be done to stop “rogue” ships entering the Great Barrier Reef. About 100 localcal and State Government workers kers extended their weekend shoreline clean- ups at Forrest rest Beach, Hinchinbrook Island and Taylors Beachh to the Palm Island d group yesterday.
Maritime Safety Queensland has been n co- ordinating the oper- ation from their Townssville headquarters with assistance from the Great Barrier Reef Marine e Park Authority, Departmentt of Environment, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and Hinchinbrook Council officers.
Samples of the oil, which was initially spotted on the Great Barrier Reef 33km north- northeast of Cape Upstart, have been taken from nine ships. Townsville’s regional harbour master Captain Frank D’Souza said oil was still coming ashore late yesterday but levels were depleting.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with the response we have received from all the govern- ment agencies … and I believe this is almost the end of it,” Cpt D’Souza. “We are looking at scaling back the clean- up as soon as possible … but first we want to make sure we are winning the battle.”
GBRMPA’s operations support manager Mark Read said a small number of dead animals had washed up on beaches affected by the spill but investigations found the deaths were unrelated.
“We’ve covered the
area of coast from Townsville all the way to Hinchinbrook Island and as far north to Mission Beach … so we’re pretty confident there are not a lot of animals that we are missing,” he said.
“Based on other oil spills … we recognise that because ( it) had been floating for quite a long period of time before it hit the coastline … a lot of that volatility had already dissipated.”
World Wildlife Fund Australia and the Australian Mar- ine Conservation Society said reefs in the path of the oil spill must be checked for damage. WWF- Australia spokesman Richard Leck said there were two likely spill scenarios.
“Either the ship lost a large amount of oil and was unaware or it was aware and chose not to report it,” he said.
“Either way, the Government needs to find the vessel and issue the operator with a significant fine.”
SPILL ZONE: Harbour master Frank D'Souza at the centre co- ordinating the clean- up. INSET: a patch of oil washe washed up on a Palm Island beach. BELOW: Yesterday’s front- page report.