From: Associated Press
Published August 22, 2007 07:15 AM

Diesel Spill off Vancouver Island Could Threaten Killer Whale Habitat

VANCOUVER -- Scientists and environmentalists are concerned that the recent diesel spill off Vancouver Island could threaten the habitat of the killer whales who frequent the area.


About 50 killer whales have swum through the slick after a barge overturned Monday and dumped a loaded diesel truck near an ecological reserve off northern Vancouver Island.


"There couldn't have a been a worse time and a worse place for this to happen," said Jennifer Lash, executive director of Living Oceans, a nonprofit organization that works to preserve marine biological diversity and create sustainable fisheries. "This is when there's whales all over the place up here and particularly in that exact spot."


Kate Thompson, a spokeswoman with British Columbia's Ministry of the Environment, said the barge was just outside the reserve's boundary when it overturned.


Lash said reports from the scene suggest the barge was about 100 to 200 meters (328 to 656 feet) inside the protected area.


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It is not known how much fuel the truck was carrying, but a slick of between two and eight kilometers (one to four miles) long was reported. The truck had a capacity of about 10,000 liters (two gallons) of diesel.


Strong currents will dissipate the oil quickly, but the whales could breathe fumes until then, said Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, a research scientist who studies the whales' habitat in the area.


A cleanup company was at the site of the spill.


The spill follows last month's accident where 1,400 barrels of crude sprayed over homes and into a nearby inlet in a Vancouver suburb when a pipe line burst during roadwork construction.


That spill is still under investigation.


Source: Associated Press


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