Volcanic mountains

Fishermen protest after volcanic eruption causes oil spill in Peru

LIMA, Peru >> An oil spill on the Peruvian coast caused by waves from an undersea volcano eruption in the South Pacific nation of Tonga prompted dozens of fishermen to protest outside the main refinery today oil from the South American country.

The men gathered outside the refinery in the province of Callao near the capital of Lima. The oil spill in Peru, in an area rich in marine biodiversity, is the only known to have occurred in the entire Pacific basin after Saturday’s eruption.

As police looked on, the fishermen carried a large Peruvian flag, fishing nets and signs reading “no to ecological crime”, “economically affected families” and “Repsol killer of marine fauna”, referring to the society company that manages the La Pampilla refinery. They demanded to speak with company representatives, but no executive approached them.

The company did not immediately return an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.

“There is a massacre of all the hydrobiological biodiversity,” said Roberto Espinoza, leader of the local fishermen. “In the midst of a pandemic, with the sea feeding us, for not having an emergency plan, they have just destroyed a biodiversity base.”

An Italian-flagged ship was loading oil at La Pampilla on Saturday when strong waves moved the boat and caused the spill. Repsol said in a statement on Sunday that the spill happened “due to the violence of the waves”.

The eruption caused waves to cross the Pacific. In Peru, two people drowned off a beach and minor damage was reported from New Zealand to Santa Cruz, California.

Today, northwest of the facility, on Cavero Beach, waves covered the sand with a shiny black liquid, along with small dead crustaceans. Fifty workers from companies that work for Repsol inside the refinery scooped up the oil-stained sand with shovels and piled it on a small promontory.

Juan Carlos Riveros, biologist and scientific director in Peru of Oceana – an organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans – said the species most affected by the spill are guano birds, seagulls, terns, tendrils, sea ​​lions and dolphins.

“The spill also affects the main source of work for artisanal fishers, as access to their traditional fishing grounds is restricted or the targeted species are contaminated or die,” Riveros said. “In the short term, distrust is generated about the quality and consumption of fishing is discouraged, with which prices fall and incomes are reduced.”

The Peruvian Environmental Assessment and Law Enforcement Agency estimates that around 18,000 square meters of beach on Peru’s Pacific coast were affected by the spill.

In a statement, the Peruvian agency said that Repsol “has not adopted immediate measures in order to prevent cumulative or more serious damage that affects the soil, water, flora, fauna and hydrobiological resources”. An AP reporter observed workers dressed in white suits collecting spilled oil on Monday with plastic bottles cut in half.

José Llacuachaqui, another local fishing chief, who was overseeing the cleanup, said workers were only harvesting oil that reached the sand, but not crude that was in the seawater.

“It’s hunting, killing, all the eggs, all the marine species,” he said.