Large oil spill in Cay Bay

POSTED: 11/12/12 1:28 PM

GREAT BAY – Last Friday the Nature Foundation responded with its vessel Yellow Tail to reports of a significant oil spill approximately 500 yards from shore of the Cay Bay/ Pelican area. Once on scene the situation was assessed and the environmental impacts of the spill on the marine environment were determined. Initial assessment found that a large quantity of oil was entered into the sea from an unknown source. There was no oil present in the coastal area by Cay Bay and no activity was observed regarding oil entering the water from industrial sources on Cay Bay. During the assessment it was found that the spill stretched for approximately two kilometers in a west south westerly direction, in which roughly 800 gallons of oil was leaked. Contact was immediately made with the various island authorities informing them of the situation. Contact was initially established with Inspector Carty of Maritime Affairs, the St. Maarten Harbour Master and the Cast Guard who responded quickly to the reports. Communication and coordination between the Port Authority, Nature Foundation and the Coast Guard was quick and effective in responding to this spill.

The Nature Foundation determined that the oil slick covered a significant section of the water column on offshore coral reefs, both of which have a significant ecological and tourism value to the island. Contact was immediately made with all stakeholders informing them of a large amount of oil in the water, and swimming in Cay Bay and certain areas of Pelican should also be avoided. Dive centers had to look for alternate dive sites. Fishermen were also informed that they should avoid fishing along the south-western shore of the island until the oil has been dissipated offshore, as the consumption of petroleum contaminated fish could cause significant health problems.

During the response to the oil slick three Hawksbill Sea Turtles were found surfacing in the slick and were covered by oil. Unfortunately the Nature Foundation was unsuccessful in tracking the animals to remove the contaminants after numerous attempts.

The Nature Foundation will continue to conduct follow up patrols and dives to determine the impact the spill is having on marine flora and fauna. The prevailing wind and currents should push the oil offshore, however the Nature Foundation will continue to monitor the direction of the slick and notify authorities if coastal areas are under threat.


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