Russian trawler oil spill could reach Tenerife

Google earth graphic: 112 Canarias
Google earth graphic: 112 Canarias

Update 8 May: The authorities at both regional and national level are continuing to monitor the site where the trawler sunk, and the seas around the Canaries, but mercifully it really does seem that we’ve got away with it in Tenerife. Oil has washed up in parts of the coast of Gran Canaria, but appears to have broken up before reaching Tenerife. Caution means they’re still looking out for it, but it begins to look like we won’t be affected after all.

Update 29 April: The government has announced that robot craft will seal the holes in the stricken trawler from which oil is still seeping. Environmentalists say that there is no explanation as to why this has not already been done, or in fact why it was not done immediately as a priority.

There is confirmation that no oil has reached Tenerife, but the latest tidal models have confirmed earlier ones: experts say that earlier timing was out because weather conditions were favourable to us, but that unless things change over the next two days, we can anticipate seeing oil in the south east of Tenerife from Friday. The area it’s expected to reach, however, no longer extends to La Gomera. Small mercies.

Update 26 April: There is a war of words tonight over whether there is oil in the sea around Tenerife or not. Politicians who first said that pictorial evidence showed oil arriving in the waters are now saying that it has not, and are accusing ecologists of raising a false alarm by mistaking images, such as the one below, for oil when they in fact show cold and warm water streams which are normal in the sea here.

Emergency services too say that their own reconnaissance flights over the area in the graphic above as part of the Pecmar emergency plan show no sign of oil. One thing seems clear, and that is no oil has yet reached the Tenerife coast itself, and the authorities are ready thanks to the emergency plan if it should do so.

Photo: WWF via Tenerife president Carlos Alonso

Update 5pm: Tenerife president Carlos Alonso has confirmed the arrival of oil off our coast. Specialist cleaning vessels are on their way to the area.

Oil in Canarian waters morning of 25 April. Photo: 112Canarias
Oil in Canarian waters morning of 25 April. Photo: 112Canarias

Update 25 April: As the severity of the oil leak from the sunk trawler becomes clear, and a dolphin was seen yesterday off Gran Canaria covered in oil, the Canarian Government has initiated reconnaissance flights to monitor the slick. At present these are not showing a deterioriation of the situation, but tidal models suggest that oil could reach south-east Tenerife over the next two days.

In an emergency cabinet held in the 112 Canarias emergency control room, the regional government has activated its Plan de Contingencia ante Contaminación Marina (Pecmar), and Tenerife president Carlos Alonso has pledged whatever is needed on behalf of the Tenerife Cabildo. The same commitment has been made by the ayuntamientos of San Miguel de Abona, Arico, Arona and Granadilla, being the areas considered at particular risk.

Original post 24 April: Experts fear that Tenerife and the south of La Gomera will be affected by part of a large oil slick which has been floating out to sea south of Gran Canaria after a fire on board the Russian trawler Oleg Naydenov in Las Palmas recently. The trawler was towed out from port when the fire broke out, a deccision made by Spanish Public Works minister Ano Mato that has been roundly criticized since the ship was evidently going to sink and any spill could have been contained in port. The Spanish government says, however, that the trawler was carrying nearly 1,500 tons of fuel when it caught fire and there was a clear risk of explosion in port.

The boat sank at sea and has been losing oil since, with the main slick moving south but a change of wind direction is sending some of it our way. It is now thought likely to reach Tenerife and if it does, to affect the south-east coastline between El Médano and Palm Mar. Patches of oil reached the coast of Gran Canaria on Wednesday, and some wildlife has been affected, notably birds and turtles, though there is particular concern for the whales and dolphins in the seas around the Canaries.

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