SAN JUAN ISLAND, Wash. – Several weeks after a fishing boat sank near San Juan Island, spreading panic for the well-being of endangered southern resident killer whales, the Coast Guard is preparing to bring the vessel to the surface .
Two windows were identified by the team responsible for the Aleutian Island sinking as ideal for bringing the ship to the surface. The announcement fell on Friday, after several weeks of work.
Recovery work for the vessel has been slow to develop for a variety of reasons: the depth is extremely difficult for divers to operate, the currents near the San Juans are difficult, and not to mention the vessel itself moved from where it happened for the first time. rest after a rescue team arrived on site in mid-August.
It is not a certainty that the ship will be lifted on Saturday, or that the ship will be lifted at all. Members of the team responding to the Aleutian Island sinking noted that they were confident the vessel could be lifted, but did not rule out the possibility that recovery would become too risky.
The ordeal began on August 13, when the 58-foot-long Aleutian Island sank for the first time with approximately 2,600 gallons of diesel and oil. What made the early hours worrying was that it coincided with the return of southern resident killer whales, a species of orca listed as endangered under the US Endangered Species Act. , in the San Juans.
Killer whales – along with another species – have come and gone since the initial sinking, meaning teams had to train to prepare to ‘scramble’ or deter the whales in case they return during the spill of oil.
Over the past week, the Coast Guard has reported a minimal burst, meaning less oil has leaked from the vessel. Divers, with the help of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), worked to remove fishing nets and attach cables to the vessel to prepare it for a crane to lift the vessel to the surface.
Responders expect fuel to spill while lifting the vessel. According to the Ministry of Ecology, “any fuel released is unlikely to be of an amount that would cause a significant environmental risk”.
That said, they prepare for worst-case scenarios, including:
- Place absorbent materials that can mitigate the impact of oil released into the water near geographically sensitive sites
- Staff will be on hand to follow up on any oil spills
- Wildlife teams will be on hand to patrol ‘ecologically sensitive areas’
- A team will be on hand to deter any whales that may approach the response
If the public sees uncontained oil spills, you are asked to call the National Response Center at: 1-800-424-8802. If you encounter oiled wildlife, you are encouraged to call 1-800-22-BIRDS.