Marine Protected Areas Corner
Case Study of a Spill Response: How Galapagos Managers Handled the Jessica Spill
|Jessica was carrying a cargo of 240,000
gallons (605,000 liters) of fuel when she ran aground off San Cristobal Island in the
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. The Jessica began to leak, and released two-thirds of
her cargo directly into the waters of the Galapagos Marine Reserve.
Through a combination of manpower, technology, and luck, the Galapagos resource managers kept the potential ecological disaster at bay.
All this required extensive coordination on the part of the spill management team. With the Navy in charge of spill containment, GNPS directed the cleanup. In all, 60 park rangers were involved. After the coordinators for each activity were established, the response flowed with no problems.
The team's work was enhanced by favorable weather. Currents and winds eventually pushed the fuel west and north, away from San Cristobal and into deeper waters. Although some of the slick reached the islands of Santa Fe and Santa Cruz, only small numbers of seabirds and sea lions appear to have been affected. Intense sunshine sped up evaporation of the diesel fuel.
Robert Bensted-Smith, director of Charles Darwin Research Station, stated that preliminary assessments indicated the impacts of the oil spill on the Galapagos ecosystem would not be severe. "If we are right...then this will be a great relief to everyone," he wrote in a published report. "However, relief should not lead us to neglect the need for a great deal of mitigation, ecological monitoring, disaster prevention, and contingency planning, for which Ecuador will need international assistance."
Role of computers in the response
Web sites played a key part in keeping stakeholders around the world informed of the spill and response. The site www.galapagos.org offered daily spill update information, but also provided a way for web visitors to assist the response. A page on the site enabled visitors to donate money directly to the spill response efforts using a credit card.."
For more information:
Paola Diaz, Charles Darwin Research Station, Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. Tel: +593 5 527 013; E-mail: email@example.com; Web: www.darwinfoundation.org.
Dagmar Schmidt Etkin, an oil spill analyst for Environmental Research Consulting (US), has been studying impacts of oil spills for 12 years. Etkin offered tips on how to plan effectively for responding to oil spills near MPAs focusing on:.
Also important is to establish a clear chain of command for managing the response."
For more information:
Adapted from MPA NEWS Vol. 2, No. 7 February 2001 http://depts.washington.edu/mpanews/MPA16.htm
Last updated: 23 March, 2001
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