A fishing boat was pulled from the water a month after it sank and began leaking diesel in the strait between Greater Victoria and Washington state.
The Aleutian Island fishing boat sank Aug. 13 near San Juan Island in an important feeding ground for endangered southern resident killer whales.
Crews spent weeks deploying thousands of feet of sorbent booms to soak up spilled fuel as researchers and environmental groups reported concern for whales, sea life and other animals in the area. Meanwhile, diesel was slowly leaking from the vents of the 49ft vessel as dive teams struggled to keep up with the boat as it sank deeper.
But on Sunday (September 17), the boat was pulled out of the water. However, the boat remains on the surface with support from a barge as agencies overseeing the response reassess their next steps.
“Raising the vessel to the surface is certainly a success, but the complexity of this operation continues to challenge our team,” said Cmdr, U.S. Coast Guard. Kira Moody of Unified Incident Command in a press release.
“The lifting of the boat was an essential first step in minimizing the risk of ongoing pollution. The next step will probably be to move the crane barge to a more sheltered location where we can completely secure the boat with much less risk to our divers and crew and better protect the environment from any lingering pollution risks.
Crews must access the starboard fuel tanks and interior spaces to continue stripping the boat to make it lighter. An on-site crane can support the weight, but Moody said the current rig configuration puts too much stress on the boat’s structure, meaning it could break and release remaining fuel.
A fuel burst was visible when the Aleutian Island was lifted to the surface and responders “were able to detonate a burst that was controllable”.
Wildlife teams involved in the response were able to deter the birds from the glare, the Unified Command said.
Crews say they will continue to monitor reflections, the location of marine mammals and shoreline impacts.
Anyone who sees an uncontained burst is urged to call the National Response Center at 800-424-8802 and oiled wildlife can be reported at 800-22-BIRDS.
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Southern Resident Killer WhalesVictoria