A 2,000-gallon fuel tank that fell into waters off the Galapagos Islands has created a slick that threatens to contaminate rare wildlife, scientists say.
The container slipped into the ocean as port workers were unloading an oil tanker on Isabela Island, the largest in the renowned archipelago, the Charles Darwin Foundation said in a statement.
All 2,000 gallons of fuel spilled into the water and drifted towards nearby beaches inhabited by unique sea lion and iguana species that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Authorities released a dispersing liquid into the coastal waters to dilute the slick. The foundation said the effects of the spill on the island’s fragile environment were still unclear.
The Galapagos Islands, about 620 miles off Ecuador’s Pacific coast, are the country’s top tourist attraction.
In January 2001, an oil tanker ran aground off the coast of the archipelago’s San Cristobal Island, leaking nearly 240,000 gallons of fuel into the surrounding waters.
A study in the June 6 issue of the journal Nature estimated that as many as 15,000 marine iguanas died on the Galapagos’ Santa Fe Island in the 11 months after the spill.