Galapagos Fuel Spill

By Cynthia Kirk

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

A fuel spill near Ecuador's Galapagos Islands is being called one of the area's worst disasters. About seven-hundred-thousand liters of fuel were spilled after a large ship hit land near San Cristobal Island last month. Experts say they are concerned about long-term damage to the environment.

The ship was transporting fuel used by boats that take visitors to the Galapagos Islands. It was carrying more than nine-hundred-thousand liters of fuel when it crashed January sixteenth. It began leaking fuel several days later.

Crews from the Ecuadoran Navy, the United States Coast Guard and the Galapagos National Park Service worked to contain the spill. They used chemicals to try to weaken the fuel.

Some of the fuel was removed from the ship. But this was difficult because the ship was lying on its side. United States Coast Guard officials attempted to turn the ship upright to prevent more fuel from leaking. But strong waves delayed the efforts.

Most of the fuel leaked into the Pacific Ocean. Experts say strong waves helped wash much of it out to sea. And they say strong sunshine helped evaporate some of the fuel. However, the fuel killed fish, ocean life and plants near the ship. And the fuel covered many birds and sea lions. Teams of experts moved the animals to special centers where they were examined and cleaned. Experts say they are hopeful that the animals on the Islands will not suffer long-term damage from the fuel spill.

The Galapagos Islands lie in the Pacific Ocean about nine-hundred kilometers west of the coast of Ecuador. The Islands are home to many kinds of rare birds, tropical fish, sea lions and famous giant turtles. The rarest of all animals in the Galapagos are the lizards called iguanas.

Visitors come from around the world to see these animals. Many of the birds and animals are not found anywhere else in the world. During the Eighteen-Hundreds, British scientist Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution by studying wildlife on the Galapagos Islands.

Galapagos officials accused Ecuador of failing to act quickly to clean up the fuel spill. The captain of the ship responsible for the spill could face charges of environmental damage. Environmentalists from all over the world called for stronger protection for the Galapagos Islands.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.

Voice of America Special English