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Oil spill threatens rare Galápagos Islands species


Tanker Jessica is lying at a sharp left angle in a bay off San Cristóbal Island, one of the Galápagos Islands

What's happening


January 22, 2001
Web posted at: 3:27 PM EST (2027 GMT)



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SAN CRISTÓBAL, Ecuador -- A fuel oil spill spanning almost 120 square miles is threatening unique species found on the Galápagos Islands that inspired Charles Darwin's evolution theory.

The islands, about 600 miles (960 kilometers) off Ecuador's west coast in the Pacific Ocean, are famous for their giant tortoises, rare bird species and plants. Many animals, including 12 brown pelicans and seven blue-footed boobies, have been caught in the spill that authorities estimate contains 150,000 gallons.

Pollution response experts with the U.S. Coast Guard are helping with the cleanup and have brought in specialized equipment to remove the remaining oil from the ship. The ship carried 160,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 80,000 gallons of petroleum product, said Dan Dewell, a Coast Guard spokesman in Washington.

CNN's Andria Hall interviews Rodolfo Rendon, Ecuadoran environmental minister, about the spill

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The tanker Jessica was en route to service an Ecuadoran naval operation when it ran aground last week. It is lying at a sharp left angle in a bay off San Cristóbal Island and began leaking oil during the weekend. Officials attribute the accident to a navigational error.

Volunteers help clean the water of Carola Bay in San Cristóbal Island  

"It is a very serious environmental problem that we have here," said Rodolfo Rendon, Ecuador's environment minister. The spill also could affect the fishing trade, he said, and fishermen are working with the government to help deal with the accident.

"At the moment, we have two areas which are in danger to be contaminated by the fuel oil," Rendon said, "and we are working with several small teams all around the coast, trying to avoid that."

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